Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center - Houston, TX

"I never imagined how easy it was to donate. I would do it a thousand times if I could … for so many reasons." – Marcy Shipp, kidney donor

Each about the size of a human fist, the kidneys are responsible for filtering waste out of the blood and regulating the body’s balance of fluids. When the kidneys are damaged by disease to the point where they cease to function, a transplant is usually recommended.

Kidney diagramBecause you need only one healthy kidney to live, it’s possible to safely donate a kidney to someone in need. For a healthy individual, donating a kidney is a safe operation, recovery is rapid, and donors often find it to be a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

In both cases, the key to a good match is having the closest possible blood and tissue matches, which reduces the possibility of your body rejecting the new kidney.

What Is a Donor Swap?

Donor swap programs like the one at the Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center match incompatible donor/recipient pairs who are cross-compatible with each other.

For example, if John and Mary both need kidneys, and both have siblings who are willing to donate but not compatible, a donor swap program might discover that John’s brother is a match for Mary and Mary’s sister is a match for John. This allows both patients to receive compatible kidneys immediately instead of having to wait for one from a deceased donor.

Houston Methodist surgeons performed their first donor swap in 2008. In 2010, they executed a three-way swap across three different states, followed by an astounding 11-pair swap.

Because of the complexity involved, few hospitals in the nation attempt donor-swap transplants, and Houston Methodist is committed to expanding and promoting the practice.

Bloodwork for matching

A blood test to determine if donor and recipient cells are compatible is the first step in determining whether the kidney is a suitable match. The "ABO" red blood cell match is the first of these tests and will help to determine which red blood cell types are compatible between you and the potential donor. To complete this test, a sample of your blood will be drawn. Blood type is an important consideration in finding a suitable match, just as it is in giving blood for transfusion.

Blood Type Can Receive from Type Can Donate to Type
O O O, A, B, AB
A A, O A, AB
B B, O B, AB
AB O, A, B, AB AB

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