Kidney transplant: Surgeons carry out first European keyhole kidney transplant

By Dominic Hughes
Health correspondent, BBC News

Media caption,
The BBC's Dominic Hughes saw the surgeons performing the operation

Surgeons at the Royal Liverpool Hospital have carried out a kidney transplant using keyhole surgery.

It is the first time the procedure has been performed in Europe.

The technique, originally developed in India, offers patients the chance of a much faster recovery after the operation.

Normally a kidney transplant would involve serious open surgery and a sizeable incision to perform the transplant.

The team at the Royal Liverpool used keyhole surgery to implant the donor kidney through an incision of just 6cm (2in).

A smaller incision is a lot less invasive for the patient and heals more quickly.

Indian technique

The technique was developed by Prof Pranjal Modi at the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre in Ahmedabad.

He said: "It is tremendously beneficial to the patient. I talk one-to-one to all the patients and they are so happy.

"Their outcomes are so good that I am encouraged to do it further and further."

Brian Blanchfield, a company director, had spent years living with a failing kidney before his sister Pam donated one of hers.

He was up and about just four days after the operation.

He told the BBC: "I'm feeling good.

"They said I'd be the first one to do it, and the interesting thing was they asked me where I wanted the kidney to go.

"So they went through my appendix scar, as there was already a cut line there."


Sanjay Mehra, a consultant transplant surgeon at the Royal Liverpool, who assisted with the operation, believes there are significant benefits.

"[In the past] the scar has been around 20-25cm for the renal transplant patients," she said.

"But here the scar is around 6cm, so there is a huge difference in the size of the scar, which has a cosmetic benefit.

"But also in the long scar there is muscle cutting, which can give problems in the long term."

Elaine Davies, director of research operations for Kidney Research UK, says about 6,000 people - roughly 90% of the total organ waiting list - are waiting for a kidney.

But fewer than 3,000 transplants are carried out each year.

Obese patients

She said: "As this new technique results in the creation of a smaller wound, it limits surgical complications and improves recovery time, which will ultimately be better for the patient.

"Keyhole surgery for the retrieval of kidneys has already made a big difference to donors.

"As long as this technique for transplanting a kidney is proven to be as safe and as effective as the current technique, we welcome this development."

This is not a technique that will be used in every kidney transplant.

It is most suitable for those patients who are very overweight, where major abdominal surgery carries greater risk.

But it shows how keyhole surgery is now providing new options for surgeons in even the most complicated operations.

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