Kidney Paired Donation and the Mayo Experience

Jun 20, 2017 | Mayo Clinic Transplant RN | @mayoclinictransplantrn

Today almost 118,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant and nearly 100,000 of those are waiting for a kidney. Increasing the number of possible living donors and coming up with innovative ways to get more people transplanted are two of the best ways to reduce this waiting list. One unique innovation doctors have used to transplant more kidney candidates is paired donation kidney transplant.

Kidney transplants can be performed from a deceased or living donor. Living donors are often a family or friend, but they can also be anonymous, non-directed donors, meaning they are not donating to someone they know. Often, when someone wishes to donate anonymously, that donation can spark a chain of kidney transplants, a process known as paired donor kidney transplant. Generally, non-directed donors are genuinely altruistic, very giving and unselfish people.2017-06-14 Kidney Paired donor blog

In kidney paired donation, the non-directed kidney donation goes to someone who had a donor lined up, but the donor was not a compatible match. That donor then “pays forward” their donation to someone else who is waiting. Living donation gives transplant patients a chance for better quality of life and a longer life. Living donor surgery can be planned, and if possible, the patient can be transplanted before dialysis is needed. Kidney paired donation is only available for living donor transplants.

Mayo Clinic performed its first paired kidney donation in 2007 with a two-way paired donation. A son desperately wanted to donate to his father, but their blood types weren’t a match. However, the son had the option to swap his kidney with someone else who had a donor that didn’t match. Mayo Clinic was able to find another donor/recipient pair that was incompatible due to antibody resistance. The pairs matched and the transplants were performed in November 2007.

With nearly 10 years of experience facilitating paired donor kidney transplants, Mayo Clinic has now completed approximately 270 transplants using this model, which is still being used today. Mayo Clinic has also established a relationship with the National Kidney Registry (NKR). Working with NKR has allowed Mayo Clinic to expand the donor pool for recipients because NKR matches living donors and recipients through a national registry with transplant hospitals throughout the United States. With a large pool of donors and recipients, more exact matches can be made, which allows for optimal long-term outcomes.

Kidney Paired Donation at Mayo Clinic by the Numbers:

  • Nearly 270 kidney transplants performed via paired donation in the past 10 years
  • Non directed donors created 65 chains, facilitating 181 transplants
  • Non-directed donors need to be at least 21 years old
  • The oldest living donor was in their 70s

Becoming a donor is a choice you need to make for yourself. You should not feel pressured to be tested or to donate. Not everyone can be a donor and not everyone should be a donor. A person needs to be medically healthy and psychosocially stable and financially in a good position to take time off work. By qualifying to be a living donor, whether for someone you know and love or just because you know there is a need, you could save the lives of many people by starting a chain of kidney transplants through the paired donor process we described. If you would like more information about kidney donation, visit our living donor toolkit.



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