(Washington, DC) – Numbers recently released by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) show that Georgetown’s new kidney exchange program has increased the rate at which patients are transplanted and taken off the waiting list that is “statistically significant.” In 2008 GUH transplanted 17 percent of its waiting list of patients. In 2009, with the advent of a kidney exchange program, GUH transplanted 32 percent of its waiting list, just about doubling the rate of transplant. “This has happened thanks to living donors and a successful paired kidney exchange program that produced record-breaking kidney exchanges among even our hardest-to-match recipients,” said Keith Melancon, MD, director of Kidney/Pancreas Transplantation at Georgetown University Hospital. Nationally, the rate of removing patients from the kidney waiting list between June 30, 2009 and July 1, 2010 was 18 percent. The United Network of Organ Sharing reports there are about 87,000 people in the United States waiting for a new kidney.
A kidney exchange can be used when a person in need of a kidney brings with him or her, a willing donor who is not a match. They might have mismatched blood types or the recipient can be what’s called “highly sensitized” to the donor; that means the recipient has antibodies in the blood that will cause rejection of the donor kidney. But if they join a larger pool of people, chances are good that someone in the group will be a suitable match for the person in need. When that person is taken off the list, someone else moves up the list, because the list gets one person shorter. Georgetown has treated highly sensitized and hard to match patients with pioneering medications and procedures like plasmapheresis to take the antibodies out of their blood and make them more suitable to accept a donated kidney. This often means their transplant will occur quicker than if they had waited on the traditional list.
“The average wait time for a patient in the DC-area on the list to receive a new kidney is four years,” said Dr. Melancon. “The average wait time for patients enrolled in our kidney exchange program, even with complicated issues like mismatched blood types or antibodies to their donor, is less than one year.”
“We’re very proud that we’ve taken the most complicated transplant patient population and have maintained very good outcomes as well,” said Dr. Melancon. “Due to the severity of their kidney disease, the expected average one-year survival for the patient and their new organ was 95-percent; our actual survival rate was 98-percent. Our survival rate for the 52 patients involved in the five kidney exchanges we’ve had since January 2009 is 100 percent.”
Between January 1 and December 31, 2009, Georgetown University Hospital’s transplant list contained 234 people; 74 of them were transplanted in that year either with a deceased or living donor organ or as part of a kidney exchange. That is almost double the 40 transplants performed the year before with a list of 239 patients and higher than a national rate of 19 percent. Updated numbers in January 2011 show that during the time period between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 the kidney transplant rate at Georgetown was 21 percent compared with 32 percent between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010 and a national rate of 18 percent.
“What we’ve done, in working with our sister hospital Washington Hospital Center and now Children’s National Medical Center, Inova in Fairfax, Virginia, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center is to actually increase the rate of transplant for the entire city. It’s now easier to get a kidney transplant in the DC area, thanks to the exchange program,” said Dr. Melancon.
Georgetown University Hospital performed its first paired kidney exchange in January 2009 with two donors and two recipients. In July of 2009 GUH partnered with Washington Hospital Center in a seven-way, 14-person exchange, then a world record breaking 13-way, 26 person exchange in December of 2009. In June of 2010, Georgetown, Washington Hospital Center, Children’s National Medical Center and Inova Fairfax teamed up for a 14-way, 28-person kidney exchange and in November 2010 Georgetown, Washington Hospital Center and Walter Reed together performed another world record breaking exchange, this time a 16-way exchange involving 32 participants.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, Washington, DC area leads the nation in the prevalence of kidney disease with more than 700,000 people affected, nearly 6,000 patients on dialysis, and more than 1,600 waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant.
The latest SRTR numbers can be found at www.ustransplant.org.
Media Contact: Marianne Worley
Patient Contact: 202-342-2400