During a medical leave of absence in 2009, Steve Jobs had a liver transplant. Today we learned Jobs will take another medical leave absence.What might be wrong?
Apple’s statement on the matter didn’t specify on either count, but one obvious possibility is that Jobs is suffering from some sort of long term complication from his 2009 liver transplant.
In an article on liver transplants for the University of Illinois Medical centre at Chicago, Robert Merion, M.D. lists several complications that can affect a recipient of a liver transplant right after the surgery and “at any time for the rest of the person’s life.”
Most of them have to do with how liver recipients have to take lots of drugs to suppress their immune system so it doesn’t attack the new organ. Even in the long term, this can lead to infections and even other types of cancer, especially skin cancer and lymphoma.
- Infection. Taking immunosuppressant medications makes a person more susceptible to infection.
- Major bleeding. This is common after transplantation because the new liver has not had sufficient time to make enough blood clotting proteins. Most liver transplant recipients need a blood transfusion during surgery to replace blood loss that is unavoidable during liver surgery. Some persons may need a second operation within 24 to 48 hours to control major bleeding.
- Clotting of major vessels. Sometimes the major vessels that supply blood to the liver become blocked, or clot off. This can lead to sudden liver failure and the need for another liver transplant.
- Bile duct problems. Sometimes the connection between the bile duct and the intestine doesn’t heal properly and bile leaks out. Or, sometimes scar tissue blocks the bile duct and bile is unable to flow.
- Rejection. The body’s normal response to a transplanted organ is to reject it. Even though they take medications to prevent rejection, most recipients will have one or more episodes of rejection. These are treated by increasing the dose of the medication or switching to a different medication.
- Cancer. This is another long-term consequence of immunosuppressant medications, because they interfere with immune cells that would normally attack and kill a malignant cell before a tumour could get started. The most common cancers that develop in this circumstance are skin cancer and lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
No matter the complications, Steve Jobs has made it very well known how grateful he is for his 2009 liver tranplant. In fact, in 2009, he made it a personal mission to get the California state legislature to pass a bill that would insure more Californians had access to organ transplants.