Northwestern Medicine

Northwestern Memorial Kidney Transplant Program Has Record Year

Northwestern Memorial Hospital August 15, 2011

Surgeons perform more than 300 kidney transplants in 2010 making program the largest in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL – Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Kovler Organ Transplantation Center performed more kidney transplants in 2010 than in any year since the program’s inception. With 301 kidney transplants, the program is the largest in Illinois and one of the most active in the country.

“Not only do we do more kidney transplants than any other center in Illinois, but our patient outcomes also rank among the best in the country,” said Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD, medical director of the kidney transplant, living donor kidney and pancreas transplant programs and associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our program emphasizes compassionate, quality care by offering the latest technology in transplantation surgery and access to innovative research, as well as by providing patients with extensive education and support throughout the transplant process.”

Patients work with a multidisciplinary team of dedicated transplant nephrologists, transplant surgeons, transplantation specialists, cardiologists, infectious disease specialists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, nurses, dietitians, social workers and financial counselors who are there for every step of the transplant journey. The team also has satellite outreach clinics that bring the resources of an academic medical center close to home, including locations in Glenview, Joliet, Oak Brook and Portage, Ind., which offer kidney transplant evaluation.

One of the hallmarks of Northwestern Memorial’s kidney transplant program is its emphasis on living donors. Beginning in 2008, Northwestern Memorial has become the largest living donor kidney transplant program in the country, performing 482 living donor kidney transplants over the past three years, more than any other hospital. In 2010, there were 167 living donor kidney transplants at Northwestern Memorial. Kidneys from living donors tend to last longer, function better and have fewer complications than organs from deceased donors. However, approximately one third of living donors are not a match for their intended recipient.

“With more than 90,000 people waiting for life-saving kidney transplants, our team is proud to be leading the way in finding innovative techniques to expand the living donor pool and give more patients the opportunity to get the transplants they need,” said Leventhal. “Our goal is to make every effort to ensure that a transplant takes place when a medically viable living donor steps forward.”

A paired exchange is a possible solution for donor and recipient pairs who have certain incompatibilities including blood type and immunological differences. Paired exchange transplants are made possible when a kidney donor who is incompatible with the intended recipient is paired with another donor and recipient in the same situation.

Another option for patients who are not a match with their intended donors is a technique called desensitization for both ABO and HLA incompatible pairs. A week or two before surgery, and a week or two after the transplant these patients undergo a process called plasmapheresis to desensitize and clean out antibodies in the blood. This process works for kidney recipients and donor pairs of incompatible blood types as well as for recipients who have antibodies to their intended donor’s HLA antigens, which are proteins in the blood that help the body’s immune system to recognize its own cells and foreign, harmful substances.

In addition to offering innovative techniques and research, the transplant team recognizes the importance of a culturally-sensitive approach to patient care. Northwestern Memorial is the only hospital in the country known to offer a dedicated Hispanic Transplant Program, which includes a bilingual team made up of transplant surgeons, physicians, a social worker, a financial coordinator, a clinical research coordinator and other support staff. Chicagoland has one of the largest and most rapidly growing Hispanic populations in the country, a group that has a higher incidence of diseases that lead to kidney failure, including diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Since the program’s inception in 2006, kidney transplants among Hispanics have nearly doubled.

“We are very proud that our efforts have resulted in Northwestern Memorial becoming a national leader in kidney and living donor kidney transplantation,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, MBA, chief of the division of organ transplantation at Northwestern Memorial, James Roscoe Miller Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Microbiology-Immunology at the Feinberg School and founding director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center. “With 2010 being our most successful year to date, this is a great example of how the program continues to grow and further meet the needs of our patients.”

Learn more about the Organ Transplantation Program call 312.695.0828. 

Media Contact

Megan McCann
Manager, Media Relations
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern Memorial Hospital 312.926.5900