First Intestinal Transplant Performed in the Philippines

A photo of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
A photo of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
A photo of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

This is the first of its kind in the Philippines: A patient at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) recently received an intestinal transplant.

Considered by the local medical community as a groundbreaking event, the transplant was performed last December 6, 2013, although details have only been released recently.

Raquel Pasana, 44, is the country’s first intestinal transplant recipient after suffering from a condition known as intussusceptions, which reduced her functioning small intestines to just 12 cm.

This medical condition causes some portions of the intestine to slide into an adjacent portion, causing blockage that could cut off blood supply to that portion as well as prevent proper passing of digested food.

Doctors had told Pasana that chances for survival are slim unless a transplant is performed.

A team from the PGH Department of Surgery and Integrated Organ Transplant Unit, headed by Dr. Siegfredo Paloyo, labored for six hours to transplant the small intestines of a 23-year-old brain-dead donor.

Within two weeks of the groundbreaking event, Pasana is set for full recovery and already eating on her own.

Paloyo, the head surgeon who performed the transplant, has attended a two-year fellowship of the Miami Transplant Institute in Florida that ended last year.

He was assisted by anaesthesiologists Dr. Ruel Tasico, Dr. Sheela Ann Datukon, and Dr. Jo-an Trilde Ocubillo.

Surgeons Dr. Al Rahjid Jamiri, Dr. Bernice Navarro, Dr. Lizza Apolinar, Dr. Sherwin Alamo, Dr. Marc Paul Lopez, and Dr. Junico Visaya also provided valuable assistance in performing the successful transplant.

Palayo claimed that intestinal transplant is the best option for local patients with bowel problems such as those experienced by Pasana.

He said that in the United States, patients are often covered with medical insurance which could pay for total parenteral nutrition (TPN), an intravenous treatment that costs as high as P150,000 a month.

Since the patient had lost most of his small intestines due to an ailment or injury, he would be fed TPN for the rest of her life, something that Pasana’s family cannot afford.

Collaborative Effort for the Transplant

The entire medical procedure was a collaborative effort right from the start, Palayo revealed.

His team had proposed to perform the procedure to PGH but knew that Pasana could not afford to shoulder the bills at all.

For the transplant and succeeding recovery costs, a number of anonymous donors, medical and health care companies, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and the “I am PGH—a Person Giving Hope” campaign contributed the necessary amount and medical supplies through the efforts of the PGH’s own Department of Social Service.

Immunosuppression drugs were donated by Novartis, Astellas, Roche, and Sanofi-Aventis to ensure that Pasana’s new intestines will not be rejected by the body and allowed to function properly.  TPN was provided by health-care company Fresenius-Kabi.

The deceased donor’s organs were harvested by the Philippine Network for Organ Sharing (Philnos) and the Human Organ Preservation Effort (HOPE) team.

Palayo’s plan to transplant small intestines to Pasana was fully supported by PGH’s Department of Surgery Head Wilma Baltazar and PGH Director Jose Gonzales.

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