Kidney transplant procedures make history at Duke
Posted December 5, 2011
Updated December 7, 2011
Durham, N.C. — Four patients and their doctors at Duke University Hospital were making history Monday, completing one of the first multiple-patient kidney exchanges at a North Carolina hospital and the first such procedure in the Triangle.
Paired kidney transplants aren't new, but Monday's procedures represent a growing trend that could help more people receive the kidneys they need faster.
For 67-year-old Sue Gommer, who will be receiving a kidney from “altruistic” donor Brad Dean, Monday’s historic surgery will also change her life. Dean has no family connection to Grommer.
She won’t need dialysis anymore and will be able to have normal kidney function for the first time in years.
Gommer’s daughter, 39-year-old Jennifer Gommer, will go under the knife as well, donating her kidney to Jeffrey Rogers, a Robeson County man who also needs a replacement.
“We, in effect, do two living-donor transplants that otherwise would not have happened,” Dr. Matthew Ellis, a nephrologist at Duke, said.
When a kidney is donated from a deceased donor, it’s stored on ice and flown in from another part of the country. At any given time, as many as 90,000 people can find themselves on wait lists to receive those kidneys. The wait takes five to seven years.
Monday's procedures allow Gommer and Rogers to bypass that long wait.
Living-donor transplants are also good for doctors, who try to avoid using deceased-donor kidneys whenever possible to increase the probability of a successful match.
“Avoiding that gives a lot of advantages to the longevity of the kidney,” Dr. Kadiyala Ravindra, a surgeon at Duke, said. “These kidneys last longer because of that.”
Living-donor transplants also decrease competition for deceased-donor kidneys.
If things go well for Sue Gommer and Rogers Monday, they could be going home within a week. Jennifer Gommer and Brad Dean could be home in the next two days.