The Fastest Growing Transplant Source for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients

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Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) has become the fastest growing source of transplantable kidneys, overcoming the barrier faced by living donors deemed incompatible with their intended recipients. A recent Johns Hopkins study shows that greater use of this exchange mechanism would help more individuals with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) receive transplants.

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Imagine you are fortunate enough to have a living donor that is willing to donate but you learn they either have an incompatible blood type or carry an antibody that will cause rejection. This characterizes the conundrum of approximately one third of all potential living kidney donors. However, KPD will allow incompatible donors to help their intended recipient by donating to another recipient who also has an incompatible donor. Previously, patients who needed kidneys were forced to wait until a compatible donor was either found or deceased, but through KPD, kidneys can essentially be exchanged through multiple pairs so that patients can get a compatible kidney sooner.

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There is not one national "list" for KPD partners such as the Kidney Transplant Waiting List. Still, you have a few options that will best maximize your opportunity for a match.

  • Register with your transplant hospital if they have a KPD program.
  • Look for other transplant hospitals that have KPD programs and register with them.
  • Find and register with one or all of the national "co-op" programs.
  • Keep in mind that you can register with multiple KPD programs as there are people that have registered in eight different programs to increase their odds of finding a compatible donor.

This will certainly require effort on the part of the recipient and donor but your social worker should be able to offer some assistance with this process. Some potential recipients are hesitant to ask the donor to go to additional lengths to find a match, however, you may be surprised at the commitment of your donor who has already extended themselves well beyond the average person and will likely understand the importance of taking the extra steps.

Recommended Reading: Those with Chronic Kidney Disease can Comfortably Discuss Need for Kidney

One major barrier to increasing the use of KPD is financial; there is no current mechanism through which KPD transplant can be reimbursed and philanthropy alone cannot support the emerging national demand. Some transplant programs of this kind will accept many of the tests that were done for you and your donor at another facility, but it is likely they will require both of you to visit their hospital for some of the physical and/or the psychosocial tests.

In the past if you were to find someone who was willing to donate a kidney to you but it was not a good match you would have to continue searching until you found a suitable donor. KPD overcomes this hurdle and recommends that you discuss this potential solution with your Nephrologist. 

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"Kidney Paired Donation." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine

Mysel, Harvey. "The Kidney Paired Donation Conundrum." Living Kidney Donors Network