Kidney transplant success: Pioneering flushing technique used in Leicester

A 56-year-old Lincolnshire woman says she feels fantastic after a kidney transplant operation made possible by a pioneering new flushing technique.

Deborah Bakewell, from Lincoln, was one of the first patients in the world to receive a donated kidney flushed with oxygenated blood after being kept in cold storage.

She said: "My kidney function is just amazing. It's probably quite a lot better than a lot of people my age with two kidneys.

"Now I have my freedom. We have booked our first holiday in six years for June, to Majorca."

Prior to her transplant, she had spent nine hours a day on dialysis.

She was one of 17 patients who had kidney transplants at Leicester General Hospital with the new procedure, which it is thought could cut transplant waiting lists by more than 10%.

Damaged organs

The technique, known as normothermic perfusion, boosts the effectiveness of damaged organs which previously would have been rejected as unsuitable for transplant.

Mrs Bakewell received her new kidney but her two own damaged kidneys were left in place.

She was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a rare genetic illness that gradually leads to kidney failure, when she was 23.

The operations, involving organs from marginal donors, were performed between November 2010 and November 2011, but the study into their success rate was only published on Thursday.

Normothermic perfusion boosts the function of damaged kidneys from the elderly or people with high blood pressure and diabetes, and cuts the risk of the organ being rejected.

Experts believe it could increase the number of organs available from marginal donors in the UK by about 500 a year.

Image caption Mrs Bakewell has booked her first holiday in six years

Mrs Bakewell said: "My kidney function was about 8% and my organs were not filtering waste properly. I was getting more and more tired and kept getting kidney infections. Sometimes I thought I had terrible backache but it was actually a kidney infection."

Professor Mike Nicholson of Leicester General Hospital, said: "Normothermic perfusion allows us to gradually reintroduce blood flow to donor kidneys outside of the body and in a controlled way.

"This reverses much of the damage caused by cold storage while offering us a unique opportunity to treat the organs with anti-inflammatory agents and other drugs before going on to complete the transplant procedure."

Only one of the 17 kidneys showed signs of "delayed graft function" after the transplant - and all of them are now functioning well.

Mr Nicholson said: "There's often great reluctance among health professionals to use kidneys from marginal donors as there's no way to establish how much damage has been caused to the organs and whether or not they will work.

"As a result, these organs are often discarded as a precaution rather than taking the risk of using them for transplants.

"Normothermic perfusion allows us to perform a crucial viability check on these kidneys, pumping them with blood to confirm whether or not they function adequately enough to be used for transplantation."

Kidney Research UK, which funded the project, has estimated that the new technique could cut the transplant waiting list by more than 10%. More than 6,400 kidney patients in the UK currently need a transplant.

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