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Concern over 'significant decline' in kidney transplants from living donors

Almost 2,000 people in Ireland are on dialysis.

Dialysis patient waiting for treatment at hospital (File photo).
Dialysis patient waiting for treatment at hospital (File photo).
Image: Shutterstock/Tyler Olson

Updated: 5.17pm

THE IRISH KIDNEY Association has expressed its disappointment in the decrease of transplants from living donors carried out in 2015.

In 2014, there were 112 deceased kidney transplants from 63 donors. In 2015, there were 81 donors and 120 deceased kidney transplants.

The IKA said this represents “a significant decline in utilisation of available kidneys”.

“It is evident that this will require further investigation to understand exactly why this has come about. For the first time in the modern living donor kidney transplant programme fewer kidney transplants were performed than the previous year,” a statement noted.

There were a total of 153 kidney transplants performed in 2015, down from the 2011 peak of 192 kidney transplants.

A statement released by Health Minister Leo Varadkar this evening said there were 266 transplants carried out in 2015, an increase of 15 on the previous year.

“This includes overall increases in kidney (deceased and living donor combined), lung and liver transplants and the first ever combined heart and lung transplant. I want to welcome this progress and acknowledge the work of our health service staff who made this improvement possible,” Varadkar said.

Pancreas transplants 

The IKA said the fact that zero pancreas transplants took place in Ireland in 2015 is “very disappointing”.

“It is not a simple project to develop a new organ transplant programme and St Vincent’s Hospital have had similar, but different, transplant surgeon recruitment issues to Beaumont Hospital. All want a safe, robust, sustainable pancreas transplant programme to emerge but frustration abounds that successive setbacks are occurring.”

Varadkar said the failure to restart the pancreas programme and the fall in living kidney donors is “hugely disappointing”, but added:

I am assured that pancreas transplants will recommence in St Vincent’s in January now that a suitable surgeon has been identified and tie up with Edinburgh agreed.

“At the suggestion of the Irish Kidney Assocation, I will ask the Office for Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) and the HSE to draw up proposals to increase the number of kidney transplants in 2016. Recruiting suitable surgeons in Beaumont has proven very difficult but I do want to acknowledge the hard work of the surgeon there who carried more transplants in 2015 than 2014 even though there is a shortage of surgeons.’

The IKA added:

It seems that for every step forward, some impediment appears to push the programme backward. In Beaumont Hospital the shortage of kidney transplant surgeons is taking its toll but credit is due to the performances of the existing team of surgeons who have managed to achieve these numbers while so understaffed.

It called on the HSE to “examine the strategy and wisdom of having only one kidney transplanting hospital in the country”.

Dialysis 

The association said that providing the service in a second hospital “would alleviate the obvious pressures that exist within Beaumont Hospital”, adding that a contract to perform some living kidney donor transplants could be awarded to a hospital in the UK, perhaps in Belfast, in the interim.

Kidney transplantation … provides significant extended mortality and quality of life to patients and is also far more cost effective than maintaining a patient on dialysis.

“These ideas are worth considering especially when the number of patients on kidney dialysis will just continue to grow and grow, and already stands at almost 2000 people in Ireland,” the IKA stated.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the HSE for comment.

Read: This one family has undergone seven kidney transplants

Read: Tinder encouraging users to swipe to donate their organs

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