Doctors Perform Historic Five-Way Kidney Swap

Tuesday's operation showcased advancements in finding matches for difficult cases. In the five-way swap, all four original candidates received compatible kidneys from someone they'd never met, and the remaining kidney went to a patient who was next on the United Network's organ recipient list.

Johns Hopkins, a pioneer in the exchange of kidneys between incompatible donor-recipient pairs, performed the first nondomino kidney paired donation transplant in the United States in 2001, the first nondomino KPD triple transplant in 2003, and the first triple domino transplant in 2005. To date, its surgeons have transplanted 41 patients in KPD operations.

Axelrod said the participation of donors in operations like this one showed a degree of trust in the system.

"It is a remarkable leap of faith for the recipient and donor pairs in these domino operations," he said. "In general, with these procedures, the donor will know the person they are doing it for, so their willingness in large part depends on their relationship with the person getting the organ."

The operation also showed how the impact of one act of altruism could be extended to help many more patients than before.

"This form of organ donation is increasing across the country," Becker said. "Many large transplant centers are willing to evaluate individuals who wish to be considered as altruistic donors. For these individuals, this is an opportunity to aid in another life and fulfill some of the true tenets of altruism.

"This is a tremendous act, more than a gesture, and such individuals should be honored for their commitment towards healing."

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