It is a brilliant, practical, and lifesaving option for kidney transplant candidates who have a living donor who is not compatible: Someone who is compatible donates while the candidate’s “first choice” donor gives a kidney to someone else on the list.
“Kidney-paired donation,” as it is called, has been bringing hope to thousands of hard-to-match patients. Now, veterans will be eligible to participate. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is piloting a program to pioneer kidney-paired donation chains via the military share program. Family members of active-duty military service members can donate to patients listed for transplant at the Walter Reed campus. Those kidneys also will be available to veterans and their dependents as well as civilian patients.
Walter Reed surgeons perform an average of 25 transplants per year on patients from across the country.
Because a kidney-paired program can also extend through 3, 4, and higher numbers of participants, it extends the possibilities. Experts at Johns Hopkins University, which has an exchange program, estimate that 45% of donor/recipient pairs could find a perfectly matched donor by entering the national paired kidney exchange program.