How Can Three Living People Share One Kidney?

This photo shows Cera Fearing, right, her brother, Ray Fearing, center, of Arlington Heights, Ill., and Erwin Gomez, three patients involved in an unusual kidney retransplant case, after they met for the first time at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on April 25, 2012./ AP  

This photo shows Cera Fearing, right, her brother, Ray Fearing, center, of Arlington Heights, Ill., and Erwin Gomez, three patients involved in an unusual kidney retransplant case, after they met for the first time at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on April 25, 2012./ AP

 

When transplanted organs fail in living patients doctors throw them away. But with more than 93,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting lists nationwide, this severe shortage begs the question, why don't doctors consider reusing kidneys? There have been other cases since the 1980s of transplant organs being used more than once, but they were rare and involved instances in which the first recipient died.

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Northwestern Memorial Hospital performed the first successful kidney RE-transplant when they removed a transplanted kidney from a living patient and RE-transplanted it into another recipient. Reusing previously transplanted organs that are still “in good shape” will increase supply. Previously, doctors have thrown these kidneys away.  Well, as the old adage goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." The fact is that a transplanted kidney that is not successful in one person may be used to give someone else a chance at a longer and more fulfilling life.

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This procedure could potentially offer thousands of patients an opportunity to receive a desperately needed transplant.  Knowing this, those who have received their donated kidneys and all those seeking  kidneys should contemplate their donor status.  Just think about the future of kidney transplantation, and how soon one kidney may be able to help more than two people.  Kidneys are in extremely high demand, however a person with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) listed to be an organ donor can share their organs with others in the community needing transplants, including CKD-Diabetics who often require a subsequent pancreas transplant. KidneyBuzz.com encourages you to further investigate organ donation and kidney RE-transplant by discussing these issues with your healthcare team. 

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References:  

"After Donated Kidney Fails, Doctors Recycle Transplant in Rare Procedure." CBSNews. CBS Interactive

"Reduce, Reuse…Re-transplant?." Bioethicsnet Blog.