The first portable Organ Care System that allows organs to continue to "live" outside of the body has been developed by TransMedics. This new, revolutionary device pumps blood through a dead person's (cadaver) removed kidneys, keeping them warm to survive longer during transport. It should be seen as great news for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients who often must contend with substantial injury to their cadaver kidneys. Kidney Transplant Teams rush against an eight hour timeline to transport kidneys to the Kidney Transplant Center operating room, prepare it for surgery and implant it into the recipient's body. In some cases kidneys are declared "unusable" when they arrive for transplant. This is a very unsettling fact as an increasing number of removed kidneys are being discarded (17.9% in 2011). 37% of unused kidneys are due to bad biopsy findings upon arrival, while poor organ function before transplant accounts for another 9.2%.
Currently, surgeons place transplantable kidneys in a cooler filled with ice before rushing it to its desired location, and desperately hoping that it reaches the CKD patient in time. "Organs that are kept warm and functioning instead of being placed on ice have less damage, so the recipient's body does not have to work as hard to accept it," said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, director of UCLA's heart and lung transplant program. This technique may improve patient outcomes because past studies have shown that patients with high grades of kidney dysfunction in the first 48 hours have a higher risk of organ rejection and early mortality later on.
The portable transplant system helps to solve the issue of transporting organs over long distances because kidneys will be able to remain outside the body longer. This will give Kidney Transplant Hospitals the opportunity to share cadaver kidneys across a larger geographic region. It could result in a major leap forward for the CKD community who may be able to reclaim the 16% of usable kidneys that are being discarded annually because no recipient could be identified in a given Transplant Center Region. While more than 200 live organ transplants have been completed to date, clinical trials are still underway in the United States.
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