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Pacific Northwest Kidney ‘Paired’ Exchange Program performs its first three-way kidney transplant

Swedish and Oregon Health & Science University celebrate historic milestone in honor of National Donate Life Month

Organ donor networks are turning to local communities to save lives through multiple organ exchanges. Swedish and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) today announced the Pacific Northwest Regional Kidney Paired Exchange Program’s first three-way kidney transplant, which saved the lives of three patients. Six surgical procedures, four at Swedish and two at OHSU, involving more than 30 medical professionals were performed in a single day.

The paired exchange is the result of a regional partnership between Swedish, Virginia Mason, Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and Oregon Health & Science University. The organizations are participating in a clinical trial, sponsored by BiologicTx, to examine how regional paired exchange may improve kidney transplant rates for patients in the Northwest.

“This three-way kidney paired exchange was identified in a relatively short time after the study began and went exceedingly well. It is a testament to the excellent working relationship between the transplant centers in the Northwest,” said Lisa Florence, M.D., director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Swedish and the study’s lead principal investigator.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 people in the United States are awaiting kidneys, and 12 people die every day while waiting. In many cases, patients have someone who is willing to donate, but that person is not compatible. Up to one in three living donors is found to be incompatible with their intended recipient. Because of cases like these, regional and national organ networks have formed to match one incompatible donor/recipient pair to another pair in the same situation. The first pair of donors provide compatible organs to the second pair and vice versa. Regional proximity helps the success and organization of multi-way paired exchanges.

“Living donor kidney transplantations offer the best chance for patients with kidney failure,” said David L. Scott, M.D., director of the Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program at OHSU. “This collaboration offers hope to many patients who have struggled to find a compatible donor and to willing donors who are now able to see their loved ones transplanted successfully.”

Steps that led to the successful three-way kidney pairing are as follows:

Step 1: The Mismatch

  • A daughter wanted to donate a kidney to her dad, but they had incompatible blood types.
  • A brother hoped to save his brother’s life with a kidney donation, but found his kidney would be rejected due to a positive blood reaction.
  • A close friend agreed to donate a kidney to save a friend, but learned the kidney would be rejected.

Step 2: The Match

  • The three willing donors were all paired with three other patients.

Step 3: The Surgery

  • The father, currently living in Yakima, received a kidney from the friend in Oregon.
  • The friend in Oregon received a kidney from the brother in Seattle.
  • The daughter, also from Yakima, donated to the brother living in Seattle.

Step 4: Post Surgery

  • The patients are recovering and all are in good health.

National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was created to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and to celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation. For more information, and to register as a donor, visit

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