A breakthrough in kidney transplantation could cut the donor waiting list by 10 per cent, as it revives lower quality kidneys which would not normally be considered for transplant.
In a world first, British researchers have developed and clinically tested a new procedure that reverses some of the damage done by keeping the kidney ice-cold before transplantation, meaning it is less likely to be rejected.
The new technique, called normothermic perfusion, flushes the organ with oxygenated blood and anti-rejection drugs before it is implanted. This reverses the damage done by cold storage and allows it to begin working in the recipient’s body earlier.
Most kidneys come from live donors. Doctors are increasingly attempting to use organs from damaged kidneys from "marginal donors", such as the elderly or people with high blood pressure and diabetes.
Normothermic perfusion revives kidneys which are lower quality and would not normally be considered for transplanted.
So far, 17 operations have been conducted with this new technique at a unit in Leicester General Hospital. The operations all involved organs from marginal donors, and were carried out from between November 2010 and November 2011.
The results and procedure have been announced today by the charity Kidney Research UK to coincide with World Kidney Day.
Chronic renal failure is a long-term irreversible decrease in kidney function. Chronic renal failure is not reversible, and dialysis or kidney transplants may be necessary in the latter stages of the disease. There are currently around 7,000 people waiting for a donor kidney, and 3,000 operations are carried out in the UK each year.
Professor Mike Nicholson, lead researcher for Kidney Research UK and based at Leicester University, said: “Normothermic perfusion allows us to gradually reintroduce blood flow to donor kidneys outside of the body and in a controlled way.
“This reverses much of the damage caused by cold storage, while offering us a unique opportunity to treat the organs with anti-inflammatory agents and other drugs before going on to complete the transplant procedure.
“In short, we’re able repair and revive damaged kidneys in a way that would otherwise be impossible.”
The new procedure will not be available immediately. However, patients with private medical insurance often have access to new drugs and techniques before they become available on the NHS, so compare health insurance quotes online now.
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