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(1/23/07 - KTRK/HOUSTON) -- State Senator Mario Gallegos had a liver transplant last week. He's still recovering at St. Luke's hospital and doing well. Some have asked how he could have gotten a transplant so quickly, just 19 days after going on the transplant list.
Senator Gallegos' doctor explained just how the transplant list works. Senator Gallegos knew he was in trouble. He had been drinking and had cirrhosis of the liver. And even though he had quit drinking, the damage had been done. He needed a liver transplant.
"That's been established and it's been this way for 10 years," said Gallegos' physician, Dr. Joseph Galati. "You have to have six months of sobriety before you even get evaluated for transplant."
Dr. Galati says even after a patient is placed on the liver transplant waiting list, they must continue in relapse prevention program like alcoholics anonymous. And they have to sign a contract promising they will.

"We have had patients over the years who did not comply with that and they're taken off the list," he said.
A third of the people waiting for a liver transplant die before they can get a match because there aren't enough organs. To even get on the transplant list a person is evaluated by a transplant team made of liver specialists, surgeons, social workers, and dietitians.  Ironically, Gallegos waited just weeks, not months or years. But Dr. Galati says it was done by the numbers. Who gets a liver first is based on medical test results. People are actually given a number called the meld score, to show how sick they are.
"It's a calculated number and there's no fudging of the number," said Dr. Galati. "With the senator, he had a high meld score his was the highest in the area so he got the first liver appropriate for size and blood type."
Days after the transplant, his doctor says Senator Gallegos is doing well.  "He was transferred out of the intensive care unit today, starting to eat and move around and going along as well as we could expect," said Dr. Galati.  The average wait for a liver transplant varies by region. In Houston it's about six to eight months. On the west coast, it's much longer. Everything depends on people in the region, who are willing to donate their organs, and to tell their family that is their wish.


Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease

Obesity, and all of its related complications, is more serious than most adults in America believe. More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and certain types of cancer, are some of the leading causes of preventable death. We are seeing an increase in the number of young children and adolescents developing obesity, and all of the related complications.

The cost of obesity is staggering, with annual medical cost of obesity exceeding $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars. The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Dr. Galati and the Liver Specialists of Texas team are dedicated to evaluate, treat, and manage all aspects of obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD and NASH), including the complication of cirrhosis and liver failure. Developing a customized plan of care for each patient they see is their objective.

Liver Transplant Resources

Dr. Galati has been involved in Liver Transplantation since 1989. As Medical Director for the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation at Houston Methodist Hospital, Dr. Galati has cared for thousands of patients with advanced liver disease. In those with the most severe form of advanced liver disease and cirrhosis, liver transplantation is a life-saving surgery. For more information on liver transplantation, click here.

Indications for liver transplant include:

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