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Kobe International Frontier Medical Center Medical Corporation (Dr. Koichi Tanaka)

Conditions Treated
Terminal Liver Disease (Congenital Biliary Atresia, Progressive Intrahepatic Cholestasis, Hepatitis, Cirrhosis, Hepatocellular Carcinoma, and Others).

Treatment Methods (Living-Donor Liver Transplants)

The only definitive cure for terminal liver disease is a liver transplant, and this has become the standard treatment today. Although organs are made available after brain death worldwide, there remains an overwhelming shortage of donors in many countries, including the U.S., where 6,000 cadaver donor liver transplants are performed each year.

Living-donor liver transplant is a treatment that was developed in Japan due to the lack of an operative cadaver-donor liver transplant program. In this procedure. 30-60% of a healthy person’s liver is excised and transplanted into a patient. By performing living-donor liver transplantation, the problem caused by the shortage of cadaver donors is thus remedied. Since living-donor liver transplantation requires a healthy person to undergo surgery, there is substantial risk and stress on the donor. The liver, however, has strong regenerative powers. After being partially excised, it can regenerate back to its original size in a matter of months. In the transplantation process, it is essential to obtain a pledge of the donor’s will. Consequently, in Japan it is performed in principle only for blood relatives within the sixth degree of kinship, and for marital relatives within the third degree of kinship. A review by an ethics committee is also required at the hospital where the transplant will be performed.

Until the mid-1990s, children with congenital biliary atresia were the main recipients of liver transplants. Recently, however, its primary application has become adults with terminal liver disease. Since the size of the liver required for an adult is larger, the difficulty level of the surgery with an adult is higher than that with a child. Living-donor liver transplants have been developed in Japan to the highest international standards. Moreover, because the quality of perioperative management in Japan is high, the risk of postoperative complications and contracting other diseases is low.

Living-donor liver transplants arc performed only when the following three conditions are met: (1) there is no other treatment to sustain life and quality of life cannot be maintained due to discomfort that keeps the patient from sleeping; (2) the patient is in a condition to withstand surgery; and (3) the transplant will allow the possibility of resuming normal life.

Features of Living-Donor Liver Transplants Performed by Dr. Koichi Tanaka

Kobe International Frontier Medical Center is currently under construction and is expected to open in the autumn 2014.

Dr. Koichi Tanaka, Chairman of the Board, performed his first living-donor liver transplant in 1990 at Kyoto University Hospital, and is renowned as the pioneer of living-donor liver transplants. He played a central role in developing the treatment into what would become a global standard for surgical procedures, immunosuppressive therapy, and management. He has since become a world leader in the field of living-donor liver transplants. By 2005, he had performed the most living-donor liver transplants in the world: 831 cases at Kyoto University Hospital; including other domestic and international institutions, he has now operated on over 2,000 cases. He currently performs surgeries and instructs other physicians in 50-60 cases per year in countries such as Singapore, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and his surgery success rate is over 80%. He is devoted to training young surgeons, and to date approximately 200 surgeons from Asia, 155 from Europe and the Middle East, and 34 from the U.S. have come to Japan to train under Dr. Tanaka. The dissemination of living-donor liver transplant methods worldwide is one of his outstanding achievements.

There are now numerous inquiries from overseas requesting Dr. Tanaka to perform surgery. In addition, requests for a second opinion are always accepted. In Japan, the procedure can be carried out at the following institutions after obtaining their cooperation: National Center for Child Health and Development (Tokyo) for children; and Kumamoto University Hospital (Kumamoto) and Nagoya University Hospital (Aichi) for adults.

A Message to International Patients from Dr. Koichi Tanaka

Our hope is to make Japan’ s excellent healthcare services available to people from overseas. The most important message I would like to convey to you is: “Please contact us anytime. We are here to serve you.” The success of living-donor liver transplantation in particular depends not only on technical expertise but also on optimal perioperative management. In both respects the level of quality in Japan, even by global standards, is extraordinarily high. We encourage you to visit us in Japan to receive treatment and to experience the nation ‘s fine healthcare management. Moreover, through the process of treating patients from abroad, and together with other domestic and international medical institutions, we can further the advancement of hepatology and transplant medicine.


Dr. Koichi Tanaka
Dr. Koichi Tanaka

Dr. Koichi Tanaka is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kobe International Frontier Medical Center Medical Corporation.
He received his medical degree from Kyoto University in 1966.
He served as Professor of Transplantation Immunology in the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, from 1995 to 2005. From 2001 to 2005, he concurrently served as the Director of Kyoto University Hospital.
He has been the leading pioneer of living-donor liver transplantation in Japan since 1990.
In addition to performing many living-donor liver transplants, he is singularly experienced in performing living-donor small intestine transplants.
In 2005, he became the Director of the clinical Trial Design & Management Division of the Transplantational Research Center at Kyoto University Hospital.
In 2009, he became the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Kobe International Medical Alliance, and iIn 2012, he became the Assistant Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kobe International Frontier Medical Center General Incorporated Association, and has been serving as the Chairman of its Board of Directors since 2013.

  • Tanaka K, et al. Evolution of living-donor liver transplantation. Barcelona, Spain, Prous Science, 2009.
  • Tanaka K, et al. Living-donor liver transplantation. Surgical techniques and innovations. Barcelona, Spain, Prous Science, 2003.

Overview of the Treatment Schedule (Model Case)

There is a mandatory preparation period of at least 3 months before your arrival in Japan.

First, you will be evaluated by the ethics committee of the medical institution for admission to Japan (the evaluation process takes 1–2 months). Second, after the evaluation process by the committee is completed, the following steps must be taken: (1) you will obtain your passport or birth certificate; (2) you will prepare documents to prove the willingness of the donor; (3) you will obtain a permit for transplantation from the embassy or the ministry of public health in your home country; and (4) you will apply for a passport visa (issuance may take at least 1 month). Third, you must confirm your ability to finance the medical costs and fees.

Because follow-ups including immunosuppressants at a medical institution in your home country are necessary, we require consultation with the medical institution in conjunction with the treatment (1–2 months).

Overview of Treatment Schedule


Dr. Koichi Tanaka Performing Surgery
Dr. Koichi Tanaka Performing Surgery
Established The medical corporation was established in April 2013, and the center is expected to open in the autumn of 2014.
Medical Institutions Admitting Patients:
Children: National Center for Child Health and
Development (Tokyo)
Adults: Kumamoto University Hospital
(Kumamoto Prefecture),
Nagoya University Hospital
(Aichi Prefecture)


1-6-5 Minatojima-Minaminachi, Kobe Chuo-ku, Hyogo 650-0047