Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More non-simultaneous kidney chains

A non-simultaneous chain with some interesting features is reported in Washington DC, followed by 3 non-simultaneous chains, starting with 3 non-directed ("altruistic") donors, one involving 10 transplants, one resulting in 3, and one in 1, conducted over six days: 26 Operations, 13 Kidneys: Hope to Few With Little.

"The largest-ever single-city kidney exchange took place this summer in Washington. The seven-way exchange, which involved 14 patients, occurred at Georgetown University Hospital and Washington Hospital Center over four days in July. It was the brainchild of Dr. Keith Melancon, director of Georgetown’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Surgery, who used a procedure called plasmapheresis to address not only donor compatibility but racial disparity."

It's nice to see non-simultaneous chains having such good effect. (We'll know that extended chains have really come of age when someone other than Mike Rees conducts one that isn't reported as the largest of some kind ever. But publicity is good for letting patients who might benefit from kidney exchange know about it, and I imagine that's why the 3 chains were reported, with some fanfare, together as one set of 13 transplants.)

The story about the 7 transplant Washington exchange makes some further points in an interview with Dr. Melancon:

"Why does D.C. have the highest per capita rate of kidney failure in the U.S.?
It’s because of racial dynamics. In D.C. proper, over 70 percent of the population is African-American, and there’s also a good number of Hispanic–Americans. Both groups have higher incidents of end-stage renal disease. If you are African-American, you have four to five times the chance of having kidney disease versus a person who is Caucasian. There is a very high rate of hypertension and diabetes in this population, and those are the two main reasons why people have kidney disease in this country.
Why is it so hard to find a donor who is a good match?
The best type of transplant is a donation from a family member or friend while they are still alive. The problem with African-Americans in particular and those from lower socioeconomic groups is that their friends and family members tend to come from the same socioeconomic level, so it’s harder for them to take all the time off work for testing, surgery and recovery. Also, the same problems leading to the patient having the disease—high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol– will be higher in concentration in their communities. Then you have the problem of antibodies, which makes the prospect of getting a transplant more difficult because of higher incidence of rejection. With these patients in July, antibodies were so high that a traditional donor match was very difficult.
You’re focused not only on healthy kidneys but on the racial disparities that exist in this area of medicine. Will you elaborate?
Racial disparities contribute to much of the spectrum of disease that we see. Not only is kidney disease higher in certain ethnic groups, but there are differences in ability to access care. People who get transplants early in the course of their disease do much better than those who get transplanted later. You can chart how quickly a person can get to a transplant center, and it’s directly proportional to their socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, you can also see it’s in proportion to whether they are a minority or not....

"What are some of the technologies that enabled you to accomplish this?
One of the things that was most important to this process was a procedure called plasmapheresis. It allows us to remove the antibodies that would attack a new kidney. We put patients through this procedure so the body would accommodate the new organ. It’s very similar to dialyses in that their blood goes through a filter and then goes back to their body; the filter separates the liquid part of blood, which has antibodies in it. We throw that out and give them more liquid that doesn’t have antibodies. This is done over a period of three to four hours. They have to undergo this a few times before and after the transplant.
What was the cost?
A normal kidney transplant will cost $160,000. One done in this way (with plasmapheresis and extra medication)will increase the cost by about $100,000. However it’s still a savings versus the alternative. We already have universal health care for end-stage renal disease, and that’s been the case for the last 30 years. Dialyses costs $85,000 to $90,000 a year, so kidney transplant is always a benefit for the people and for the government."

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