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Northwestern Memorial Hospital Ranks as a National Leader in Living Donor Kidney and Living Donor Liver Transplants

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March 29, 2012

Chicago -

Kovler Organ Transplantation Center employs techniques to expand the living donor pool

Newly released data from the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) indicates that Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s living donor kidney transplant program is the largest in the country based on volume of transplants from last year. In 2011, surgeons performed 154 living donor kidney transplants. Northwestern Memorial also ranked among the largest living donor liver transplant programs at second in the nation, with 21 such transplants performed in 2011. Northwestern Memorial also ranks in the top five programs nationally based on volume in overall kidney, liver and pancreas transplants.

“Over 100,000 people are waiting for a life-saving transplant, so we continually challenge ourselves to find innovative techniques to expand the living donor pool,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, chief of the division of organ transplantation. “We are proud that our efforts have resulted in Northwestern Memorial becoming the largest living donor kidney program and the second largest living donor liver program in the country.”

Under the leadership of Joseph Leventhal, MD, PhD, transplant surgeon and director of the living donor kidney program, and Talia Baker, MD, transplant surgeon and director of the living donor liver program, Northwestern Memorial has employed innovative techniques to expand the living donor pool.

“About one-third of living kidney donors that come forward to donate end up not being a match for their intended recipient. Our goal is to work around those incompatibilities and make every effort to ensure that a transplant takes place when a medically viable living donor steps forward,” said Leventhal, who is also associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Northwestern Memorial offers numerous techniques to help make living kidney donation available to donors and recipients that are blood type or immunological incompatible. Northwestern is one of only a handful of centers in the country that offers these pairs desensitization treatments, such as plasmapheresis, intravenous immunoglobulin and/or monoclonal antibody treatment, to both ABO and HLA antigens. A kidney paired donation is also a possible solution for donor and recipient pairs who are not compatible with one another. Northwestern Memorial has performed more than 70 KPD surgeries to-date, the largest of them being an eight-way paired exchange that involved eight donors and eight recipients. The kidney transplant team is currently enrolling patients into two stem cell-based therapy trials. The protocol of the two clinical trials involves transplanting stem cells from a kidney donor’s bone marrow into the recipient, with the hope of gradually eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs.

“The benefits of living donor kidney transplants are well-documented, the kidneys tend to last longer, function better and have fewer complications than kidneys from deceased donors.” added Leventhal.

“The number of patients waiting for a liver has increased dramatically during the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the number of donors has not kept pace,” said Baker, who is also associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Because of this shortage, more than 1,500 people die each year while waiting for a liver transplant. We continually work to find ways to reduce the wait time for our patients and to further research to make living donor liver transplants safer.”

Northwestern Memorial is one of nine centers in the country involved in a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study of living donor liver transplants: the Adult to Adult Living Donor Liver Transplantation Cohort Study. Living donor liver transplantation is relatively new and being performed more frequently. As part of the study, researchers gather information on living donor liver transplant outcomes, which will help aid decisions made by physicians, patients and potential donors.

In addition to offering cutting edge techniques and research, the transplant team recognizes the importance of a culturally-sensitive approach to patient care. In 2006 Northwestern Memorial developed a comprehensive Hispanic transplant program for Spanish-speaking patients and family members. A multidisciplinary, bilingual team cares for patients and offers, educational sessions for patients and families conducted in Spanish, as well as Spanish-language materials and information on the web.

"We know as healthcare providers that customized patient care is important for everyone,” said Abecassis. “Our center is focused on providing patients with a high level of support and options to help ensure people get the life-saving organ transplants they need.”

To learn more about Northwestern’s transplant program, visit the Kovler Organ Transplantation Center online, or call 312-695-0828.

Media Contact:

Colleen Sheehan
Senior Associate

Last UpdateApril 2, 2012