Rainer Gruessner: A Three-Organ Transplant
Rainer Gruessner MD lives in Tucson, Arizona, where he was appointed Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine in 2007.
He directed a team of surgeons who performed a rare and sophisticated 3-organ transplant on a one-year-old girl in 2009. The patient had lost most of her small bowel and was completely dependent on intravenous supply of nutrients which in turn caused her liver to fail. In a seven hour operation at the University of Arizona Medical Center, the little girl received the liver, small bowel, and pancreas from a deceased donor. “By transplanting all three organs at once,” Rainer Gruessner said at the time, “we can give children with these serious intestinal diseases and concurrent liver failure hope for a healthy future.” It was the first time the procedure was performed in Arizona and the Southwestern United States. Four years later, the little girl is alive, eating and doing well.
Rainer Gruessner is an international leader in abdominal transplantation, and he standardized the technique for living donor intestinal (bowel) transplants. The 2009 transplant was just one of many firsts performed by Rainer Gruessner during his long career in surgery. He was involved in the world’s first split pancreas transplant in 1988, and he performed the first standardized technique for living donor intestinal transplants in 1997. In 2012, he and his team performed the first robot-assisted total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplant.
One of the reasons Rainer Gruessner MD has many such “firsts” to his credit is his extraordinary surgical skills. But another reason is his personal approach to problems. “I, throughout my life, have never taken no for an answer,” he says, “because I think that we can overcome many of the hurdles that are frequently considered as insurmountable by thinking both methodologically and outside the box.”