In a ground-breaking operation, British surgeons claim to have transplanted an “incompatible” donor kidney on a female patient, after freezing and filtering her blood plasma to ensure that the new organ wasn’t rejected.
Maxine Bath, who had been on dialysis for 15 years after kidney failure, received the “incompatible” donor kidney from her sister despite having dangerously low blood pressure, after no suitable donors were found.
The operation, carried out at the University Hospital in Coventry, involved the use of a “cryofiltration” system to remove plasma from the 41-year-old’s blood and then chill it, turning proteins and antibodies into a gel-like substance.
According to the surgeons, this allowed the antibodies, which can prevent a transplanted organ from being accepted, to be filtered away before the plasma was warmed up and returned to the patient, The Times reported.
Rob Higgins, a renal consultant, said that it was the first time the technique was used in a tissue “incompatible” transplant, adding it had been essential as other antibody-removal procedures would have lowered Ms. Bath’s already low blood pressure even further.
“This is an innovative measure we have implemented. If Maxine had carried on with dialysis her chances were pretty slim,” he said, adding that had she survived further dialysis, she would have gone blind because of her low blood pressure.
“The number of people with severe kidney disease that require dialysis and transplantation is increasing in all western societies, mostly because of the increase in diabetes and ageing populations. In some cases replacement plasma is used, rather than cryofiltration, but this is not always tolerated and can produce further drops in blood pressure,” Dr. Higgins said.
The patient, Ms. Bath, added: “Although it’s not been long since I had the operation I’m already feeling healthier. I am looking forward to being able to eat food I couldn’t have at all before like nuts and chocolate. I just want to get back to a normal life.”
Chris Rudge of U.K.’s Department of Health’s national clinical director of transplantation said that the technique was a valuable extension of continuous research into how to transplant kidneys from living donors in circumstances where the recipient had antibodies.
“While the technique may apply to a limited number of patients, to the individual, if it makes the difference between no transplant and a transplant, then it’s hugely important,” Mr. Rudge said.