Stevie Wonder's announcement puts new focus on kidney transplant types

The 69-year-old music legend surprised concertgoers in London Saturday night with his announcement.

Fred Bodimer
July 09, 2019 - 2:19 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — There's new focus on kidney transplants -- and the types of transplantation -- in the wake of Stevie Wonder's announcement this past weekend that he will soon receive a new kidney.  

"Kidney transplants are extremely common," said SLUCare's Dr. Henry Randall,  the surgical director of transplant at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.  "They are actually the most commonly performed transplant in the United States and probably worldwide as well."

So why are kidney transplants so common today?

"It has to do a lot with diabetes and hypertension," Dr. Randall tells KMOX. "Or the combination of diabetes and hypertension."
 
Nationally, the wait times for a cadaver kidney donation are really long.

"It just happens to be in the St. Louis area, wait time is somewhere between three and four years," said Dr. Randall.  "In some areas of the country, like in San Francisco or New York, you may wait as long as eight years for a cadaver transplant.  And one of the reasons Stevie Wonder announced he has a living donor was because he won't have to wait as long. He actually has a scheduled date for his living donation transplant."

The 69-year-old music legend surprised concertgoers in London Saturday night by announcing that he will take a break from performing so that he can receive his kidney transplant this fall.

Which type of transplant has the better outcome?

"The outcomes are better for living donor transplants," said Dr. Randall.  "And the reason why is people who donate are typically extremely healthy.  At our center, when we do a living donor transplant, we do a pretty exhaustive and extensive work-up on the donor to make sure that they don't have any problems that they are going to incur later from us removing the kidney.  We are also looking for any possible diseases because we don't want any diseases transmitted to the recipient so we screen for infectious disease problems."
 
Another reason is the living kidney has a shorter time outside the body.

"We here at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital are performing a living kidney transplant this Wednesday," said Dr. Randall.  "We have already done a work-up on the donor and the recipient pair.  The donor goes into the operating room first.  Then the recipient goes in their own operating room later.  The ischemic -- or the time that there is no blood flowing through the kidney -- is only about an hour before it is transplanted.  Those kidneys are better than cadaver transplants.  Although the cadaver transplants do well, living donor transplants provide the greatest benefit."
 
Dr. Randall says if you want to know more about living transplant donations, log onto ssmhealth.com/transplant.

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