Friday, 5 February 2010

A successful transplant of an incompatible kidney

When you read about a transplant, you normally think "weren't they lucky to find a compatible donor". A post in January mentioned network transplants, showing the ingenuity sometimes required to get a compatible organ.

So it was a bit of a surprize to read in the Times Online today that a woman has had a transplant of an incompatible kidney. The operation was triggered when Maxine Bath developed serious blood pressure problems. The kidney, from her sister, was not compatible and she had been waiting for 15 years, hoping to get a transplant.

The technique used involved chilling samples of her blood, turning the proteins and anti-bodies into a gel, then filtering it to remove the antibodies (which would prevent a successful transplant by attacking the "foreign body"). Then the plasma is thawed out and can be returned to the body. Other antibody removal techniques would have lowered Ms Bath's blood pressure to dangerous levels. Five sessions of cryofiltration were required before the operation at University Hospital, Coventry, could be started.

Although tests had earlier shown no good match within her family circle, her sister Michelle was the closest match, and agreed to donate a kidney, as doctors thought Maxine only had months left to live.

This was said to be the first time this technique had been used for a kidney transplant. Apparently it will only slightly increase the number of renal failure patients who can have a transplant. But any increase is a bonus.