Oxygenation for better preservation of donor kidneys


The Cliniques Saint-Luc transplant centre and UCLouvain have developed a new technique to better preserve donor kidneys, via the administration of additional oxygen. This is a Belgian world first!

Since the 1960s, donor kidneys have been kept on ice while awaiting transplant. In the last 20 years, a machine that pumps coolant into the kidneys has been added, and has already improved kidney function after transplant. It now appears that administering oxygen to the organ before transplant significantly reduces the risk of acute rejection and kidney loss. Oxygen deprivation after transplant can trigger an inflammatory reaction and ultimately impair or even suppress kidney function.

Last March, two patients benefited from this new technique at the Cliniques Saint-Luc and UCLouvain. They each received a kidney from a donor who had experienced cardiac death, i.e. a person whose blood circulation had stopped before donation. In both cases, renal function is now excellent and dialysis is unnecessary. Oxygen therapy is more important for donations from donors in a state of cardiac death rather than brain death, i.e., patients whose death is determined by neurological criteria and for whom the kidneys have remained naturally oxygenated for longer.

Thanks to increased road safety and better hospital care, the number of young donors has dropped significantly in recent decades. As other transplant centres begin to use oxygen therapy, the skies are clearing for future patients.