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Swapping kidneys and saving lives

By Amy Robinson | 10 de agosto de 2012

Swapping kidneys and saving lives

People would give anything for those they love. In some cases, that thing might even be a kidney. But what do you do when the kidney you so desperately want to give doesn’t match? San Antonio’s team at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital has come up with an innovative answer.

San Antonio.- People would give anything for those they love. In some cases, that thing might even be a kidney. But what do you do when the kidney you so desperately want to give doesn’t match? San Antonio’s team at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital has come up with an innovative answer.

Due to a newly developed system of matching living donors with people in need of kidney transplants, more people than ever are receiving kidneys they so urgently need. Titled “Single-Center Kidney Paired Donation: The Methodist San Antonio Experience,” the results of this promising three year study were published in this month’s edition of The American Journal of Transplantation.

Receiving kidney donations from live kidney donors is not a new process. In fact, the first living transplant was performed in 1954, and today around 6,000 kidney transplants come from living donors. What is new is how donors and recipients are being paired up.

If you decide to donate a kidney to a loved one and your kidney is a match – perfect! It’s smooth sailing. More often than not, however, it’s not that easy. You could have an incompatible blood type or perhaps the number of antibodies don’t line up. While this may seem like a lot of medical mumbo jumbo, one thing is for sure. No matter how big your heart is the donation just won’t work.

“The beauty of Kidney Paired Donation is that it gives donors another option,” Adam Bingaman, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the living donor program, explained.

Simply put, Kidney Paired Donation transplants offer a solution by providing a giant kidney swap. If you are not a match for your loved one, your name goes into the computer system. Sophisticated computer software then creates an exchange of donors that helps the maximum number of people.

You might think that people would be disappointes to learn their kidneys will not go to their loved ones but to a complete stranger. But Bingaman says donors become extremely enthusiastic.

“The donors are not only helping their loved ones but also helping other folks,” he said.

For example, say Donor A is not a match for Recipient A and Donor B is also not a match for Recipient B. But if Donor A is a match for Recipient B and vice versa, then they do a donor exchange. Now two people receive kidneys instead of what normally would have been zero.

That’s just the simplest scenario. San Antonio’s Texas Transplant Institute made history by performing a 16-way kidney exchange!

“In the past, none of those folks would have been transplanted,” Bingaman reveals. “It also helps folks who don’t have a donor because there are fewer people on the waiting list.”

People on the waiting list need all the help they can get. In the U.S. alone, there are 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants, Bingaman explained. Those people will wait an average of four to seven years to get off the list.

Waiting for a kidney transplant is a matter of life and death

San Antonio’s transplant team is helping those odds. Between 2008 and 2012, 180 matches have been made thanks to Kidney Paired Donations. In fact, 30 percent of kidney matches made in San Antonio use Kidney Paired Donations compared to the national rate of 5 percent.

By taking advantage of this system, San Antonio is becoming an important medical center. People seeking a ray of hope visit the Transplant Institute from all across the country. Bingaman recounts the stories of a 17-year-old boy from Vermont, an elderly man from Florida and countless other patients who traveled to San Antonio in order to save their lives.

“Without Dr. Bingaman, I would still be on the list,” Kashla Sephus said.

Despite these incredible results and heartwarming testimonials, Kidney Paired Donation is significantly underutilized. Bingaman aims to change that.

“We hope the successful process documented in our study will spur other transplant centers to develop a database, increase the number of kidney paired donations and thus remove people from the ever-growing national wait list,” Bingaman said. “If Kidney Paired Donations were more widely used, it has been estimated that as many as 2,000 additional people could receive live donor transplants each year.”

If you or a loved one is in need of a kidney transplant, contact Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital for more information on Kidney Paired Donations.

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