First Paired Donation kidney transplants in Tennessee slated for today at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis

Published On 06/28/2011

The Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute (MUHTI), in partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, announces an alliance with the National Kidney Registry (NKR) to help save additional lives in Memphis. This program, called paired donor transplantation, will allow MUHTI patients who do not have a compatible living kidney donor to be paired with another patient who also does not have a compatible living donor. These patients “SWAP” donors so they each have a compatible kidney donor and they can each receive the life-saving organ they need.

MUHTI is the only center in the Mid-South that is partnering with NKR and the only Transplant program in Tennessee doing paired donations.

“We feel this is an excellent opportunity for patients who need a kidney transplant and who do not have a compatible living donor to find the donor match they need significantly faster,” said Luis Campos, M.D., kidney program surgical director. “Paired donor transplantation dramatically decreases the time it takes for NKR patients to receive a kidney and allows the patient to receive a closely matched kidney for the best outcome.”

As of May 2011, the average wait time for a deceased donor kidney was still 48 months, compared to about an 11-month wait for NKR patients. NKR uses a sophisticated computer program to match paired living kidney donors with recipients. Participation with the NKR is completely voluntary, and there is no cost to either donor or recipients who choose to participate.

“Not that long ago, common practice and belief was that the donor and recipient had to be done in the same location in adjoining operating room suites,” said Dr. Campos.  “The National Kidney Registry changed the paradigm by transporting kidneys cross-country.  NKR has had 100 percent success and has facilitated nearly 300 transplants so far.”

“MUHTI transplants over 100 kidneys per year and approximately 25% of these are from living donors.   Living donor kidneys have a higher success rate than kidneys from cadaveric donors because of a shorter preservation time and controlled surgical factors,” according to Dr. James Eason, Program Director of MUHTI. Paired donations could add as many as 2,000 to 3,000 more organs available for transplant patients across the nation.

Dr. Vinaya Rao, medical director of the kidney transplant program, said that “this program highlights the altruistic nature of organ donation by bringing people together across boundaries through trust and cooperation.”

The number of people waiting for kidneys continues to increase.  In 2006, that number surpassed 60,000. Now the number is close to 90,000. Only 17,000 people a year receive kidney transplants.

The mission of the National Kidney Registry is to save and improve the lives of people facing kidney failure by increasing the quality, speed, and number of living donor transplants in the world.

“The beauty of a living donor program is that it brings together the human elements of altruism, trust and cooperation,” said Dr. Rao. “It can be very satisfying to be a part of that.”

"Methodist University Hospital is proud to partner with the National Kidney Registry and be able to provide life-saving transplant surgery to more patients," said Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer, Methodist University Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. "Paired donation takes our kidney transplant program to the next level and this unique process provides a new source of needed kidneys to people who would otherwise not be able to experience transplantation. What a wonderful way to enhance patient care here in Memphis and in the region!”

Nationally recognized for its success with kidney, liver, kidney-pancreas and pancreas transplants, MUHTI has been a leader in the field for more than 30 years. MUHTI performed its first kidney transplant in 1970, making it the sixth medical center in the United States to transplant a kidney. Over the last 5 years, transplant volume has been the highest in our program history and our focus on our kidney program has never been greater. Today, the institute transplants more than 100 kidneys each year, and with the help of the paired kidney exchange, we expect this number to increase as more organs become available.  MUHTI is committed to the highest level of excellence on a national level. For more information, click here.

Photo: Kidney transplant patient Linda Richmond waits in her room with husband Dennis to be taken into surgery to receive her new kidney.  She and her sister Vernita Jarman participated in the first paired donation kidney transplant in Tennessee at Methodist University Hospital's Transplant Institute.