With 12 surgeons, 6 operating rooms, 5 donors, and 5 patients the first known transplant of 5 kidneys simultaneously went off without complications. The procedures were conducted at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center which had done triple transplants of several previous occasions. The five recipient - 3 men and 2 women - were in good health and spirits, as were the donors. The 10 participants came from 5 different states and Canada. 4 of the kidney recipients approached the hospital with family members willing to donate but incompatible with their loved ones. The fifth recipient was on a waiting list to receive a kidney.
The procedure showed just how well hospitals and the health care system can be at linking willing donors with recipients. Organ recipients know all to well how long the wait can be to receive an organ and procedures such as this where compatible strangers are linked may become more common. The procedure took 10 hours to complete and involved 12 surgeons, 11 anesthesiologists, and 18 nurses.
Doctors say the most common form of kind of transplants are paired transplants with triple transplants even being rare. Doctors prefer to use kidneys out of live patients as opposed to cadavers because the success rates with such organs is higher. Live-donor practice is becoming more common every year in the United States as the process becomes more well known and people network for organs across the nation. Live-donor practice involves pairing a kidney recipient and a friend or family member willing to donate an organ, particularly a kidney, with another pair. This reduces the amount of time a needy patient has to wait for an organ and increases the chances of the surgeries success.
Last year, 16,500 kidney transplants were completed in the U.S. 10,000 of the kidneys came from cadavers while the other 6,500 were from live-donors. There are presently 70,000 people waiting for kidneys with an average wait time of 5 years. Nearly half of this number will die before receiving a kidney or become two sick to undergo the surgery.
Altruistic donations, donations by people not related to any of the recipients, are becoming more common as well. Many members of certain Christian groups have donated their kidneys to others whom they have never met before. One of the donors in the quintuple surgery was an altruistic donor never meeting and of the recipients whom her organ was donated to.
The multiple kidney swaps bend the legal boundary as some laws prohibit giving something of value in exchange for an organ. Doctors, hospitals, and patients are looking for clarification and refinement of the law to allow for the life saving donations.
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