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How Mayo Clinic is using technology to better use high-risk organs for transplants

Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-30 21:30:01-04

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — According to the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA), nearly 3,500 kidneys, donated with the potential to help patients who desperately need them, are discarded.

It is a huge problem, but why is it happening?

ABC15 visited the Mayo Clinic's Transplant Center to learn more and to see how they are using technology that could allow them to better use high-risk organs, such as kidneys, in transplants. More than 100,000 Americans are listed on the waiting list, living minute by minute, hour by hour, hoping for a viable kidney, liver, lung, or a heart.

"We were part of the [Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network] study as a model center on how to maximize the use of high risk kidneys," said Dr. David Douglas, the chair of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center in Scottsdale.

"Many times we will use organs that another more conservative center has turned down and use that organ with excellent results," he said, adding that there are big differences between transplant centers on the types and quality of organs they will accept and use.

The Mayo Clinic has one of the highest rates of using higher-risk kidneys.

Dr. Douglas attributes that to the clinic's technology, specifically profusion technology.

Basically, the kidney is attached to a pump hours before a transplant, which sheds light on how successful the kidney will be, before it enters the body.

"By being able to use the higher-risk kidneys, we have here one of the shortest waiting times in the country," Douglas said.

According to the United Network For Organ Sharing (UNOS), kidney patients wait an average of 3 to 5 years for a donor kidney.

Dr. Douglas said if transplant centers were more open to receiving higher-risk kidneys, the wait time for patients would certainly decrease.

"I think people are worried about the outcome but again, we've shown you can use those kidneys and have excellent outcomes," he said.