Northwestern Medicine

Northwestern Medicine Surgeons Perform 100th Kidney Paired Donation Transplant

Northwestern Memorial Hospital October 23, 2012

Largest living donor kidney transplant program in the country reaches milestone

CHICAGO, IL – Northwestern Medicine transplant surgeons and physicians have reached a significant milestone with the completion of the 100th successful kidney paired donation transplant, a strategy which has enlarged the pool of kidneys available for donation for patients with a living donor who is not compatible.

“We are proud of this accomplishment and our diligent focus to lead the way in finding innovative techniques to provide more patients the opportunity to get the transplants they need,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, chief of the division of organ transplantation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the J. Roscoe Miller distinguished professor in the departments of surgery and microbiology/immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Many times when family members want to donate, they are not matches for their loved ones. They can, however, donate their kidney to someone else who matches, and in return, their loved one receives the gift of life.”

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 not compatible with their intended recipient, is paired with another donor and recipient in the same situation.

Northwestern Medicine relies on innovative technology including a robust patient database and computer software that allows for real-time identification of kidney paired donation opportunities. “This technology leads to the successful transplantation of incompatible patients in mere months, instead of relegating these patients to five to ten years of waiting for a deceased donor kidney transplant,” said John Friedewald, MD, transplant nephrologist at Northwestern Memorial and chair of the UNOS kidney transplantation committee. “Technology alone, however, is not enough. It takes teamwork and careful planning from the whole team; the immunologist, nurses, physicians and surgeons all working together to make these transplants happen.”

Over the last four years, the Northwestern Medicine Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program has grown to become one of the largest in the country, performing 636 living donor kidney transplants. This is more than any other hospital in the United States. In 2011, surgeons performed 154 living donor kidney transplants. 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.

“In addition to kidney paired donation, Northwestern Medicine offers numerous techniques to help make living kidney donation available to donors and recipients who have mismatched blood types or immune systems,” said Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD, transplant surgeon and director of the living donor kidney program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and associate professor of surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of only a handful of centers in the country that offers these pairs desensitization treatments, utilizing plasmapheresis, intravenous immunoglobulin and monocloncal antibody treatment, to both ABO and HLA antigens. The kidney transplant team is currently enrolling patients into two stem cell-based therapy trials; the protocol of the two clinical trials involves transplanting stem cells from a kidney donor’s bone marrow or peripheral blood into the recipient, with the hope of gradually eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs.

“This milestone is a reflection of our commitment in providing a high level of support and options for patients to ensure that a transplant takes place when a medically viable living donor steps forward,” said Abecassis.

Northwestern Medicine is the shared vision that joins Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a collaborative effort to transform medicine through quality healthcare, academic excellence and scientific discovery.

Learn more about the Northwestern Medicine Organ Transplantation Program.

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