Chain reaction

January 2nd, 2014

Health News

For kidney patients in Hawaii, and elsewhere, comes news of a pilot project that aims to increase the number of available donor kidneys across the country. It's being undertaken by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a private nonprofit that contracts with the federal government to manage the nation's organ transplant system.

The program, launched at medical centers such as Johns Hopkins Hospital,  facilitates donor chains, which allow willing donors who are not a match with a patient to still donate a kidney.

From a story this week in the Baltimore Sun:

Without a willing, living donor, people can wait for a kidney from a deceased donor for years, facing dialysis, other painful side effects of chronic disease and organ failure and, eventually, death.

However, UNOS is facilitating a national Kidney Paired Donation Pilot Program to allow all willing donors to give, even if they aren't a match with their own loved ones. The program works with dozens of hospitals across the country to find participants, including several that coordinate their own pairings, like Hopkins.

The program removes patients with living donors from the national waiting list, in favor of pairing them with other donors and recipients who have compatible blood and tissue types and aren't likely to reject the organs.

How it works:

Say you have Patients A and B, each of whom has someone willing to donate a kidney, but does not match with that person to receive the organ. However, Donor A's kidney and blood type would be a suitable transplant for Patient B, and vice versa. The hospital would then perform the transplants: Donor A to Patient B and Donor B to Patient A.

But chains can also have more than two pairs of patients. Hopefully this diagram explains it better:




One Response to “Chain reaction”

  1. ohiaforest3400:

    Wow, that gives some hope, sort of an organ donor pay-it-forward plan.

Leave a Reply