Success of a recent three-time-zone, simultaneous kidney swap gives new hope to UAB patients in Alabama awaiting a kidney transplant, says Michael Hanaway, M.D., a UAB surgeon who participated in the first-time event.
|UAB surgeon Michael Hanaway (center) was part of the surgical team that participated in a recent three-way kidney swap. Alabamian Marilyn Brownleee (left) received a kidney from Slavo Mrva (right), a Colorado resident.
“This process is going to enable us to transplant people who otherwise wouldn’t have been transplanted,” Hanaway says. “In some situations, patients have to wait five, six, seven, eight, nine years for a kidney transplant, and that’s a shame if the patient has someone willing to give them a kidney.”
UAB has the second-largest kidney transplant program in the nation and has performed more kidney transplants than any other kidney program in the United States since 1987, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. More than half of the hospital’s annual 250-300 kidney transplants involve living donors.
UAB recently made its kidney-donation program available to the Alliance for Paired Donation, a Toledo-based, non-profit organization that seeks to shorten the waiting time for kidney recipients through paired donation. UAB submits information to the alliance at the patient’s request, and it is entered into a database that encompasses medical programs nationwide.
Once the match is identified, additional blood work is done to ensure the donor and recipient are compatible. Travel logistics and further medical evaluation then are arranged. “The alliance uses a fairly complicated computer program to come up with potential matches,” Hanaway says. “This is something we volunteered to become part of as a way to get some of our patients transplanted who wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”
The three-way, three-time-zone kidney swap UAB participated in July 30 included Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and University of Colorado Hospital. The three transplant recipients and their donors underwent surgery at the same time.
Planning for the surgery for the three couples took five months. Each donor had to travel to the center where they would be donating their kidney to be evaluated by those surgeons before the transplant could be considered.
“There was a tremendous amount of hard work and attention to detail by Martha Tankersley and our coordinators to set this up,” Hanaway says. “I think the donors sacrificed the most in this process — going through surgery and being away from their loved ones. But in the end, they helped them get off dialysis — and two other people they had never met.”
While this swap involved three couples, Hanaway says the possibility exists for more pairs to be used in the future.
“The success of this swap really shows it can work on a large scale, across a large geographic region,” he says. “Theoretically, if we can do it with three pairs, we can do it with four, five or six pairs. It’s more work to make the logistics work the larger it gets, but it also gets more people transplants who otherwise wouldn’t.
“UAB is a very willing, hopeful and active participant in this endeavor,” says Hanway. “It only will benefit more of our patients in the long run.”