Fifty people who had lost hope of ever having the kidney transplants that would save their lives have reason to celebrate today as Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital announces a national transplant milestone – its 50th paired kidney exchange transplant.
This unprecedented number of exchange transplants at a single center makes the San Antonio program the busiest paired exchange transplant program in the country. According to recent research into paired transplants, only a handful of transplant centers around the country have performed a significant number of these procedures.
This innovative program is giving hope to individuals who have been repeatedly told that a match is not available for them. The paired exchange program identifies living donors who wish to donate their kidney to a loved one but cannot because of blood or tissue incompatibility. Incompatible pairs are matched with other incompatible pairs, and the donors are exchanged, providing kidney patients with a transplant from a matched donor and a second chance at life. The transplant team at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital performed their first exchange procedure in March 2008 and completed the 50th procedure just 19 months later, with 42 of the exchange transplants performed in just the past 10 months.
“The average person who receives a kidney transplant lives 10 years longer than the average person on dialysis,” said Francis Wright, M.D., Director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program and transplant surgeon. “Our exchange program has given over 500 years of life back to these kidney transplant recipients.”
“The success of our program has broad national implications,” he explained. “It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 people currently are on the national kidney transplant waiting list with donors who want to donate a kidney but cannot since they are not a match.”
The patients involved in the 50 exchange operations range in age from their early 20s to their late 70s and are ethnically diverse. Many are from Texas, but some are from as far away as Louisiana and Alabama. A 53-year-old man who had been on dialysis for 12 years, unable to find a match due to high levels of antibodies in his blood, was transplanted with an exchange operation just four months after visiting Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital (Hear his story in his own words here). A young woman drove all the way from Alabama with two incompatible donors to find out if the program could help her; she received a transplant less than six months later.
“Each of these patients represents a wonderful story of hope,” said Adam Bingaman, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Paired Exchange and Director of the Incompatible Program, and transplant surgeon. “Patients needing kidney transplants and having incompatible donors no longer need to take ‘no’ for an answer. There is new hope.”
Key to the success of the program at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital has been a dedicated team of medical professionals with a special emphasis on blood type and antibody matching. Typically, there is at least a one-third chance that two people will not be a match. If patients have received a previous transplant, had a blood transfusion or been pregnant, their odds of finding a match can be much lower due to the immune system making antibodies.
Dr. Bingaman and the “incompatible team” manage a large database that currently contains more than 200 recipients and 300 donors. Comprehensive analysis of such a large database has allowed each of the exchange transplant recipients to receive a kidney from a donor who was a complete match, making it unnecessary to utilize high risk therapies to enable a match between incompatible pairs.
More than 85,000 people are on the national kidney transplant waiting listing, and most patients wait three to six years or longer to receive a kidney from the list. Approximately 4,500 Americans die every year while on the kidney transplant waiting list.
Dr. Bingaman says that the goal of the paired exchange program at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital is to “turn a ‘no into a yes’ for all patients with incompatible donors. Paired exchange operations give these patients new hope to receive the gift of life.”
For more information about incompatible kidney donor matching, phone 210-575-8425 or 1-800-888-0420.
You can listen to more first-person accounts from recipients on our YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/sahealth210 .
— SA Health