First UAB "Kidney Swap" Performed for Patients with No Eligible Donor

Birmingham, AL
April 21, 2006

Thanks to a new UAB program, a Georgia man and a Bessemer, Alabama, woman who both expected to wait many years for kidney transplants received new organs on Wednesday. They were the first patients to receive a paired kidney exchange that matches a patient who has a willing, healthy living donor — sister and fiancé, respectively, in this case — with another donor and recipient, forming two compatible pairs.

UAB transplant doctors hope the Living Incompatible Kidney (LINK) transplant program will reduce long waiting times and help ease the organ shortage. Transplant surgeon Alan M. Hawxby, M.D., recruited from The [cq] Johns Hopkins Hospital to start the program, said, “As many as a third of patients are incompatible with their potential living donors. With the new paired kidney exchanges through LINK, a donor freely offers a kidney to a stranger in order to get their own loved one transplanted by another donor with a reciprocal situation.”

Hawxby said Alabama is the 23rd most populous state, but ranks fifth in the number of patients with kidney failure. “That leads to a large number of people who are on renal dialysis, which is not conducive to high quality of life, with repeated hospitalizations and frequent infections. Many of these dialysis patients are on our transplant waiting list, which is why that list now numbers more than 2,400, with waiting times for transplants of typically four-to-five years and sometimes more.” more information