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A new procedure offers promising news for patients lacking ?a compatible organ donor?
New procedure eases the strain on the organ transplant waitlist
Most people with severe kidney disease will eventually need a transplant. Currently, more than 200 British Columbians are on the kidney transplant waiting list, and unfortunately, patients can die while they’re waiting. Last year in B.C., only 145 people received a transplant, due to the lack of available organs.
Some folks on the waitlist even have a willing donor, but sadly, that donor may not be blood-group compatible and therefore unable to help. Now, a new procedure could change that.
St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is now performing a simple, elegant new procedure that allows transplantation between different blood types. Steve Waddington was the first person in B.C. to undergo the procedure.
Waddington had lived with a genetic kidney disease for 10 years. Without a transplant, he was facing a life of dialysis. Worse, he noted his quality of life was diminishing day by day: “I lost a lot of weight and my energy levels dropped severely.”
His wife Lori was willing to donate her kidney to him, but the couple’s blood types were incompatible, meaning Waddington’s body would recognize Lori’s kidney as being foreign, produce antibodies and reject it in a short time.
With this new procedure, different blood types are no longer a problem.
Kidney specialist, Dr. Jagbir Gill, explains, “What we can do now is remove those antibodies so that patients can get successfully transplanted from a different blood type.”
Before the transplant, a patient undergoes up to four weeks of plasmapheresis, a dialysis-like procedure that filters out antibodies from the blood before the new kidney is transplanted. Afterwards, the plasmapheresis blood treatment is continued for another two to four weeks to keep the antibody levels low.
One month after receiving the new kidney, the patient’s body responds in the same way as with a transplant from a matched donor. Incredibly, even when the antibodies return to normal levels, the new kidney isn’t rejected, a process that is not well understood.
Considering 30 per cent of patients with a willing donor aren’t be transplantable because of blood-type incompatibilities, this new procedure will help ease some of the strain on the current five-to seven-year waitlist for a kidney. “What it allows us to do is really offer these people the choice of transplantation and thereby better survival and quality of life,” says Dr. Gill.
For Waddington’s wife Lori, no long-term health risks are anticipated for her as a kidney donor. As for Waddington, five months after his transplant, he’s back at work and resuming his life.
Despite these advances, there is still a great need for organ donation. You can sign up for the registry using forms at pharmacies and most doctors’ offices, or register online at transplant.bc.ca.
Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.