It reminded me of a certain episode of Grey’s Anatomy but this one is for real. The big kidney swap last December was a ground-breaking as well as record-breaking endeavour. A total of thirteen patients underwent kidney transplants that involved 26 surgical operations. The kidney exchange was especially beneficial for those with rare blood group and therefore had problems finding a donor. Here is how the kidney swap works: A family member of patient A is not a match but will donate a kidney to a total stranger. In the process, the transplant options of patient A expands as unmatched family members of other patients will in turn donate kidneys. The donated kidneys from family and friends are pooled together, then distributed to the closest match. Patient A gets a matching kidney from the pool.
Thus the 13-way transplant was performed at Georgetown Hospital and neighboring Washington Hospital Center within a period of 6 days. Ten out of the 13 recipients were ethnic minorities (Black, Asian, Hispanics) whose chances of getting a transplant from a live donor are rather slim.
Training a body to accept donor tissue before actual transplantation greatly diminishes the chances of rejection. This exactly what Belgian doctors did. A Belgian woman had been living in pain for more than 25 years when an accident badly injured her windpipe (trachea). During that time, two metal stents were keeping her windpipe opne so she could breathe. Now she is painless and has a new windpipe. The windpipe was from a dead donor but instead of direct transplantation, the doctors first implanted the organ in the patient’s arm where it grew new tissue. During the initial months, the patient had to take drugs to suppress the immune system’s ability to reject the organ. After 8 months, enough of the patient’s tissues have grown around the trachea that the drugs were ceased. 2 months later, the doctors removed the windpipe form the arm and finally transplanted it into her throat.
Some doctors try to skip the immunity suppression part by lining the donated windpipe with the recipients’ own stem cells.
In February and March, transplant centers in two European countries started the certification training for implantation of the SynCardia temporary CardioWest™ Total Artificial Heart. In February, heart surgeons at the Onze Lieve Vrouw (OLV) Hospital Aalst started the training and became the first hospital in Belgium and the 50th in the world to undergo the certification training. In March, the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center isthe first hospital in Greece and the 51st in the world to start a similar accreditation process.