Dr. Thomas E. Starzl, a surgeon and researcher who performed the first successful liver transplant on a human patient in the 1960s and later helped advance the breakthrough drugs that made organ transplants markedly more survivable, died on Saturday at his home in Pittsburgh. He was 90.
His death was announced by the University of Pittsburgh, with which he had been affiliated since 1981.
In 1967, Dr. Starzl led a surgical team at the University of Colorado in a procedure that many in the medical community had dismissed as impractical, if not impossible. Although kidneys had been transplanted successfully since the 1950s, all previous attempts to replace a liver had resulted in the death of the patient.
Indeed, Dr. Starzl’s first four attempts at liver transplantation, in 1963, had failed when the patients experienced complications from the use of blood-clotting agents, which in some cases caused lethal clots to form in the lungs.
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