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Paired Exchange Program

Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center is collaborating in an effort to increase the availability of kidneys from living donors. Lourdes, the only hospital in the state approved to perform kidney, liver and pancreas transplants, has teamed with the New Jersey Sharing Network, the organization that facilitates transplantation statewide, to undertake a new initiative in organ donation called The New Jersey Paired Exchange Program.

The program is a computerized registry of intended kidney donor/recipient pairs whose blood types or blood cross matches are not compatible with each other. The registry attempts to match a donor or recipient of one pair with a compatible donor or recipient of another pair. If the four people involved are cleared by a medical review board and agree to the organ exchange, the donations and transplant surgeries occur simultaneously.

Better Outcomes for Donors and Recipients

Without a transplant, patients with end-stage kidney disease must undergo three-times weekly dialysis treatments, which can take an emotional and physical toll. Unfortunately, because of the limited number of available organs, patients can spend years waiting on the national list to get a suitable deceased-donor kidney.

Waiting three or four years for a deceased donor is a difficult and long wait. That is why the Paired Exchange Program provides an opportunity to increase the donor pool.

Not only is the time to wait reduced, but a live donor kidney offers other advantages to the patient. A living-donor kidney lasts longer, on average, than a deceased-donor kidney, and immediately and positively impacts the recipient’s quality of life. Half of the kidney transplants performed at Lourdes last year were through living donors, a percentage that has grown dramatically in recent years.

The deceased-donor pool increases by 1 percent each year, but the waiting list increases by 20 to 25 percent. The Paired Exchange program is way to increase the number of living donors.

In addition, through the Paired Exchange pool, an individual with a blood type incompatible for his loved one could still make a live-organ donation possible.

Participating in the registry does not forego other organ donation possibilities. If a suitable deceased-donor kidney becomes available for one of the intended recipients before the surgery is scheduled, he or she will be offered that organ.

Financial Considerations

The donor’s medical expenses related to evaluation, hospitalization and follow-up care are fully covered by the recipient’s insurance. Travel, lodging and recuperation expenses are not directly reimbursable. The Lourdes transplant team will assist patients in developing a financial plan.

Key New Jersey Partners

Hackensack University Medical Center, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Saint Barnabas Medical Center are the other facilities involved in the program.

Since these five transplant centers in New Jersey can put their patients in a pool, the chances are good the computer will find a match for our patient and donor and another patient and donor.

For more information on the Paired Exchange Program, call an Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center transplant coordinator at 856-757-3840.

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