Spain and Italy have taken the lead in the first international cross kidney transplant ever in southern Europe. One patient in Spain and another in Italy each received a kidney transplant from a living donor, thanks to an exchange of organs between the respective donors.
Both donors and recipients are in perfect health and have left hospital.
The kidney extractions and transplants were carried out on the same day, 19 July, at the Fundació Puigvert in Barcelona, a leading centre for cross kidney transplantation, and the Ospedale Cisanello in Pisa.
The cross kidney transplantation programme is based on swapping live kidney donors between two or more couples. The aim is to offer patients with chronic kidney failure the possibility of receiving a kidney from a living donor, even though the patient’s partner or family member who wishes to donate the organ is incompatible.
Transplants of this type involve a complicated logistical process. It becomes even more complex with its internationalisation, requiring full collaboration between the head offices of the national transplant organisations of Spain and Italy, the regional transplant coordinators and the medical teams from the two hospitals participating in the process. The period between the National Transplant Organisation (Spanish acronym: ONT) carrying out the cross examination that detected a possible compatibility between these two couples and the actual transplants taking place was barely 8 weeks.
A total of 14 hospitals were involved in this first successful cross transplant in the international Cross Kidney Transplant Programme: 10 Spanish, 3 Italian and 1 Portuguese. There were 113 donor-recipient couples: 79 Spanish, 19 Portuguese and 15 Italian (see attached tables).
The cross kidney transplant programme is one of the forms of kidney transplantation from a living donor that the ONT implemented in Spain nearly a decade ago, after developing a joint work protocol together with a multidisciplinary working group. The first cross kidney transplant took place in Spain in July 2009. Since then, there have been 194 transplants of this kind in the country.
Cross kidney transplants are a highly developed therapeutic model in some countries with a high rate of kidney transplants from live donors. This is the case in Australia, Canada, South Korea, the United States, Holland and the United Kingdom, which have been carrying out these kinds of operations for some time with excellent results.
The use of increasingly less invasive surgical techniques and the study and care of donors (before, during and after the operation) have boosted the use of these kinds of transplants, given that the possible complications for donors have been reduced considerably. Currently kidney extraction from live donors is considered a low-risk procedure.