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US docs claim world record musical-kidneys game

Eight-way, four-hospital transcontinental organ swap

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Topflight doctors in America have claimed a world record for "the first eight-way, multihospital, domino kidney transplant". The multiple organ-swap involved four hospitals, almost a hundred medical personnel, eight donors, eight recipients and sixteen different kidneys - many of which latter made transcontinental journeys during the process.

Multiple organ transplants of this type generally involve several people needing a kidney who have managed to find someone who will let them have one, but whose organs are incompatible with their bodies. Tradeoffs among several pairs can be arranged such that everyone gets a kidney which won't be rejected by their body.

The "domino" effect referred to by doctors is started by an "altruistic" donor - one who is willing to give up a kidney to anyone, rather than only to a specific person. This starts the chain moving, in this case making seven other interconnected transplants possible.

The hospitals involved were the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Pamela Paulk, vice president of human resources at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, was one of the donors.

"I always knew I was going to donate. I was just waiting for the right time," said Paulk, who handed over one of her kidneys to "a friend and colleague who lost function of his kidneys three years ago". The generous hospital executive blogs about the kidney-giving experience here.

Johns Hopkins docs believe that a national musical-kidneys scheme modelled on the recent successful operation-chain could see another 1500 kidneys swap bodies annually. With 84,000 people in America needing new ones and only 6,000 donations per year at present, that will have a noticeable impact.

There's more from Johns Hopkins here. ®

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