Georgetown University Medical Center conducted a record-breaking kidney exchange on Dec. 2 during which 26 different surgeries gave 13 patients with severe kidney disease life-saving organ replacements.

“Those people literally needed a needle in a haystack,” Keith Melancon, director of the Kidney Pancreas Transplant program at Georgetown University Hospital, said in a press release.

Among the recipients were some individuals who could not accept a kidney from the majority of the people on the national donor list. According to The Associated Press, one recipient in particular could not accept a kidney from 95 percent of the population. Additionally, of the 13 recipients, 10 were black, Latino or Asian-American, which constitute some of the groups for which it is most difficult to find a donor match from a living donor.

The marathon kidney exchange allowed all recipients to receive transplant kidneys their bodies would accept.

“Minorities in particular would find it extremely difficult to find a suitable donor using traditional donor match methods,” said Melancon in a press release. “By putting them in an exchange and giving them the option of a relatively new use of a blood cleansing technique called plasmapheresis, we can greatly increase their chances of getting a suitable donor as well as reduce their waiting time to get a transplant. Why wait in the long line for a deceased donor to come along if you can bring a donor and wait in the short line?”

105,390 individuals were on the national waiting list for a kidney, an increase by nearly 20,000 names since last year. Despite the growing demand for kidneys, there are fewer than 17,000 transplants performed each year in the United States. Taking greater advantage of kidney exchanges has the potential to enable up to 4,000 more transplants per year, according to Melancon.”

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