Triple Transplant Breakthrough

Hammersmith Hospital doctors take part in pioneering kidney surgery

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Surgeons at Hammersmith Hospital have taken part in a pioneering three-way operation to transplant the kidneys of three people all involved in a donor-pooling scheme.

Six men and women who had never met before all took part in the operation. The three anonymous pairs, each comprising a donor and a recipient, agreed to put themselves into a pool to find a match, as their blood and tissue types were not compatible with those of their loved ones.

Newly-wed Teemir Thakrar from Hertfordshire, Chris Brent from Bexleyheath and Andrea Mullen from Aberdeen, were all waiting for a lifesaving donor when they joined the pooled transplant list with their loved ones. Teemir joined up with his wife Lynsey, Chris signed up with his sister, Lisa, and Andrea and her husband Andrew took part together.

Each of the three donors was compatible with one of the recipients. However, the operation was complicated, not just because of logistics, but because it relied on each of the six people being in good health on the exact same day to prevent the procedure being postponed.

The transplants went ahead on December 4, 2009 and saw surgery commence simultaneously at 9am at Guy’s and St Thomas', Hammersmith Hospital and The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE). Once retrieved the three kidneys were packaged in ice, put into custom-made cool bags and transported across the UK – from Edinburgh to London by plane and between the London hospitals by blue-light ambulance.

Teemir Thakrar received his new kidney at Hammersmith Hospital. Mr Vassilios Papalois, consultant renal surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, to which Hammersmith Hospital belongs, said: “The surgery was such a success thanks to great teamwork on all three sites. I wish our donor and recipient Lynsey and Teemir a great future together and hope we can do more paired and pooled transplants. In the USA they are already doing up to twelve pairs at once – so that’s something to aspire to.”

Thakrar said the operation had changed his life: “At my wedding to Lynsey I had to go home and dialyse in the evening and my stag do was pretty low key. I’m now looking forward to a long life with Lynsey and starting a family. I’m also excited about being able to exercise again and getting back to the gym. I’m happy in the knowledge that two other people will finally be off dialysis too.”

Donor pooling became legal across the UK in 2006 and since then two-way swaps have become more commonplace, with 20 having taken place so far.

But a three-way transplant has only been performed once before in the UK, by medical teams in England in late 2009. Further details on that occasion have not been released due to patient confidentiality.

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “We are hoping this is just the start of things to come and that what is currently unique practice becomes possible in hospitals throughout the country.”

Around 1,500 transplant operations were carried out in the UK last year. Normally, donors can expect to wait around three years on the transplant list before a match is found.

March 13, 2010

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