The Science Behind a Crazy 6-Way Kidney Exchange | WIRED

KATIE M. PALMER SCIENCE
03.09.15
2:43 PM

IN A SURGERY worthy of the most convoluted Grey’s Anatomy plot, surgeons at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco completed a two-day, six-way kidney transplant late last week. Five surgeons and dozens of anesthesiologists and nurses daisy-chained 12 patients together in the West Coast’s largest paired transplant ever.

Patients who need a new kidney are often subjugated to years-long waiting lists, biding their time until an organ becomes available, typically from a recently deceased donor. But living transplants, from donors who give a kidney to a relative or friend, are far more likely to succeed—and can last twice as long before another transplant is needed. The problem is, that selfless donor’s kidney might not be a solid match for its intended recipient. That’s why transplant centers are increasingly working to build chains of donors and recipients: Pairing those who would have donated to a friend with a stranger, so everybody gets the kidney that’s right for them. And with more than 100,000 people on the kidney waiting list, a chain of paired donations can have a far greater impact on that backlog than a single, closed-loop swap would.

On Friday, surgeons successfully completed a six-way paired kidney exchange at California Pacific Medical Center. Sutter Health/California Pacific Medical Center

Today, about a third of the 16,000 annual kidney transplants come from living donors, a number that keeps rising through paired procedures. Getting six people to donate their kidney to a complete stranger is a remarkable feat of altruism. But it’s also a testament to biomedical technology: The testing and treatments that make kidney transplants so successful, and the algorithms doctors and patients use to find the right match—or, in this case, six matches.

Read more via The Science Behind a Crazy 6-Way Kidney Exchange | WIRED.

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