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Questions Surround Steve Jobs Liver Transplant

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 12:05 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Apple, Steve Jobs, Liver Transplant, Pancreatic Cancer


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons / Steve Jobs 

Apple Inc.'s co-founder and CEO is expected to return to work later this month after receiving a liver transplant a few months ago, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In 2004, Steve Jobs, 54, confirmed he was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor known as an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor. Such tumors can be benign or malignant, but usually grow slowly and are less deadly than most pancreatic tumors. He underwent surgery that year to remove the tumor.

In January, Mr. Jobs was forced to take a leave of absence from Apple due to an undisclosed medical condition that was causing significant weight loss.

It’s not clear in this case whether Jobs’ cancer spread to his liver, or whether there was another reason for the transplant.

Physicians theorize the tumor metastasized to his liver – a likely place for the disease to spread. Yet, still, a liver transplant would not typically be the first intervention attempted.

“It’s an uncommon indication for liver transplantation,” said Dr. Will Chapman, professor and chief of transplant surgery at Washington University, in reference to neuroendocrine tumors. Chapman, who was not involved in Jobs surgery, said the scenario accounts for less than 1 or 2 percent of liver transplants.

Jobs released a statement in early January stating his weight loss was due to a treatable hormone imbalance. But his health problems became increasing more complex than originally thought and he announced a six month leave of absence.

Liver Transplantation – California vs. Tennessee

Many are asking why a California patient would choose to travel out of state for transplant surgery.

A greater number of patients are seeking liver transplantation in California than in Tennessee. In 2008 - 1,615 California registrants were added to the list compared with 295 in Tennessee.

The waiting times for liver transplants vary from state to state. As of 2006, the median number of days from joining the liver waiting list to transplantation was 48 days in Tennessee, while nationally it was 306 days, according to the WSJ.

Factors such as proximity to the transplant center, medical need and appropriateness allow the patient to be prioritized – celebrity and/or influence is not part of the process.

Steve Dowlng, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment, but said, “Jobs, 54, is looking forward to returning to work at the end of the month.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that 37,680 Americans get pancreatic cancer each year, but few get islet-cell tumors of the kind Jobs had. #

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