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PA Hospital’s milestone 5000th kidney transplant

9 July 2021

Oceania’s largest kidney transplant unit, the Queensland Kidney Transplant Service (QKTS) at Princess Alexandra Hospital has achieved a milestone 5000 kidney transplants on 22 June this year.

From cautious beginnings with just two performed in the unit’s first year of service in 1969, kidney transplant rates continue to increase year on year, including a 20 per cent increase in referral rates in the last five years resulting in a record year of 207 transplants in 2019.

Director of Metro South Integrated Nephrology and Transplant Service, Professor David Johnson, said the 5000th transplant is a significant cause for celebration given it’s been a long time coming.

“When I first started as a registrar at PAH in 1994, the unit was celebrating its 25th anniversary and performed its 1500th kidney transplant that year.

“In the 27 years since, the service has performed an additional 3500 kidney transplants for people in need,” said Professor Johnson.

While this achievement is exciting for the team, for 5000th kidney transplant recipient, Jane Parker, she is simply overwhelmed with her gift of life which was a live donation from her best friend’s husband.

“There are no words to describe the gift I have received,” Jane said adding her own ‘insert tears here’ emoji.

“It’s a very humbling experience to have someone offer such a huge gift and it all happened very quickly.

Jane was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2017 but began deteriorating in 2019 to the point where she required regular dialysis.

“That’s when it all changed for me. I couldn’t work and I was exhausted all the time. The 15 months on dialysis was debilitating and definitely more than enough time for me!” she said.

As doctors couldn’t determine the cause of Jane’s kidney disease, it was strongly recommended her family did not become a live donor, so Jane was put on the transplant list in September of last year before her best friend’s husband came forward.

“The craziest part is, we weren’t even a match because he has a different blood type, but the amazing thing is that my antibodies could be removed prior to the transplant to ensure my body accepted the organ.

“I just can’t comprehend the technology that is available to be able to do that!” she said.

The QKTS performed its first ABO (blood group) incompatible kidney transplant on 21 November 2008 and that kidney is still functioning.

Professor Johnson said this success followed many others on the QKTS pathway to improving access to transplant including the first live donor kidney in 1981 which functioned for over six years, and the first donation after circulatory death (DCD) in 2008 which is still functioning for that transplant recipient today.

“The outcomes of our service are world-class and improving all the time thanks to a cohesive team of highly skilled healthcare professionals from across many disciplines and a large, established program of research, much of which is conducted through the Australasian Kidney Trials Network (AKTN) based here at PAH.

“We continue to look at even more ways to improve our service and make it more accessible to patients including our partnership with the Metro South Health Equity and Access Unit which is implementing key cultural initiatives to improve access to kidney transplantation for First Nations peoples.  This has culminated in a doubling of kidney transplant rates in Indigenous peoples in the past five years,” he said.

Nephrologist Dr Samantha Ng who is managing Jane’s post-transplant care said that she is having a dream run post-operatively which is thanks to the many people who are part of the transplant effort.

“From Robina Hospital Renal Dialysis Unit and our live donor coordinators here at PAH; to Dr Tony Griffin who did the transplant surgery with Transplant Physician Professor David Johnson and all of the staff in those teams, we really work hard to keep improving the success of our transplant program so we can help more people access the service,” Dr Samantha Ng said.

“It was a small surprise to the team to have reached 5000 transplants when the data was pulled together at the end of June,” said PAH Nephrologist, Dr Samantha Ng.

“It’s been a big year for everyone so it’s nice to have something so significant to celebrate.”

QKTS Key Stats:

  • The first kidney transplant was performed at PAH on 13 September 1969 by Professor Gordon Clunie and Dr Lionel Hartley. The head transplant physician was Dr Trefor Morgan.
  • The first re-transplant (i.e. patient who had a kidney transplant for the second time) was performed on 20 January 1971. The kidney lasted 4 years and 3 months.
  • The first live donor kidney transplant was performed on 2 June 1981. The kidney lasted 6 years and 3 months.
  • The first donation after circulatory death (DCD) kidney transplant was performed on 1 September 2008; the kidney is still functioning.
  • The first ABO(blood group)-incompatible kidney transplant was performed on 21 November 2008; the kidney is still functioning.
  • The first AKX (paired kidney exchange) kidney transplant was performed on 31 January 2013; the kidney is still functioning.
  • The 5000th kidney transplant was performed on 22 June 2021 by Dr Tony Griffin. The donor surgeon was Dr Simon Wood and the Transplant Physician was Professor David Johnson.
  • In 1969, the service performed 2 kidney transplants and the 1-year graft survival rate was 50%. In 2019 on QKTS 50th anniversary year, the service performed 207 kidney transplants, which was the record for the unit and was nearly double that of the second highest transplanting unit in the country.
  • Kidney transplant operations fell to 143 last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 1-year graft survival rate for 2020 is 98.6%.
  • In October 1978, we had 135 people with functioning kidney transplants in Queensland. As of December 2020, we had 2517 people with functioning kidney transplants.
Last updated 9 July 2021
Last reviewed 9 July 2021

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