Skip to main content

MEMPHIS, Tenn.– People who would not donate a kidney to a stranger might consider it if the organ gift meant a family member could receive a needed transplant.

 That’s the idea behind paired-donor kidney exchange, said Dr. Donna Hathaway, director of clinical transplant research at the University of Tennessee-Memphis.

 The transplant alternative is intended to help people who are not a match for their own loved one, but may be a potential donor for someone else.

 The first paired-donor registry is up and running at UT-Memphis and staff is ready to enter the first pair in the data base.

 Hathaway said the registry, now available to physicians at only a few medical centers, was created with the potential to become a national exchange.

 “Although ultimately the registry is designed to be national, we wanted to be sure we had good control before we opened it up,” Hathaway said.

 Here’s how paired-donor kidney exchange works:

 — Two patients, one ‘A’ and the other ‘B’, need kidney transplants. No one in ‘A’s’ family is a suitable match. ‘B’ has the same problem.

— However, someone in ‘A’s’ family is a match for ‘B’ and someone in ‘B’s’ family is a match for ‘A’.

— The exchange is made when ‘A’s’ family member donates to ‘B’ and ‘B’s’ family member donates to ‘A’.

Hathaway said paired-donor exchange is one answer to the shortage of kidneys available for transplant.

 Without paired-donor exchange, patients whose families don’t offer a suitable match must wait for a donated cadaver kidney.

 “It’s a better option in one way because the success rate for a kidney transplant from a living donor is higher than from a cadaveric donor,” Hathaway said.

Dr. Osama Graber, chief of the transplant division at UT Memphis, said the supply of cadaver organs does not meet demand.

“Our growth in transplantation is going to come from the living donors,” Graber said

The kidney transplant program at UT Memphis, now in its 27th year, is on track to perform 140 operations this year, Graber said.

UT Memphis broadened donor requirements three years ago to include “emotional relatives” such as spouses and friends.

“Our success the past two years with emotionally-related transplants has been close to 98 percent,” Graber said, adding that the success increased interest in paired-donor exchange.

Dr. Tom Peters, a surgeon and director of the Transplant Center at Methodist Medical Center in Jacksonville, Fla., worked with Hathaway to help setup the registry.

 Patients and families in the Jacksonville area have been slow to try paired-donor exchange and there has not been a match there yet, Peters said.

Other centers participating in the registry are in Minneapolis, Minn., and the Washington, D.C. area, Hathaway said.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation’s transplant system, 41,863 persons were waiting for new kidneys in 1995 and 1,518 died without receiving a transplant.


 Contact: Dr. Donna Hathaway (901-448-6135)