Czech medicine celebrates 40 years since first successful organ transplant

As 24 year-old Karel Pavlik began losing consciousness on the operating table he knew that his chances of survival were slim. Several previous attempts at a kidney transplant had failed and Karel did not expect to become Czechoslovakia's first successful transplant patient. Forty years have passed since Czech surgeons conducted that historic organ transplant.

Things have come on hugely since then; today the country's transplant programme is comparable to those of the United States and western Europe in terms of quality, quantity, and survival rate. And, as transplant specialist Dr. Stefan Vitko tells Dita Asiedu, the Czech Republic is actually ahead when it comes to waiting time:

"The average waiting time for kidney transplantation is less than twelve months. There are people who wait a few weeks because the waiting time is related to biological factors involving the donor and the recipient. It's a kind of lottery."

How do Czechs feel about donating their organs? Are they a nation of donors?

The first transplant was conducted forty years ago. How have things changed since then?

"Enormously. First of all, the one-year graph survival at the time was around 20 percent. Today, it is over 95 percent. The main achievement is in immunosuppressive treatment. We use a different immunosuppressant that is safer and more powerful and more effective."

What important organs have not yet been transplanted?

"The small bowel. We are now in the experimental stage. We are experimenting on animals to hopefully conduct the small bowel transplant next year."

A very interesting thing is that China says it has conducted the first ever successful penis transplant...

"We transplant vital organs that you need to live. We do not need a penis to live so we do not deal with this kind of a transplant."