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Transplant program at London Health Sciences Centre enters a new era

September 20, 2001

Debbie Neufert
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 74772

(LONDON, Ontario) - London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has entered a new age in its Transplant Program after an innovative procedure was used to remove a kidney from a living donor. The procedure is called a laparoscopic donor nephrectomy, and it's a first for the hospital.

Unlike the traditional operation to remove a kidney from a living donor, where a large incision is made, a laparoscopic donor nephrectomy is minimally invasive. Through small ‘key hole' openings, the kidney to be donated is separated from all the tissue and organs surrounding it. Then it is removed through a 4 centimetre (less than 2 inch) incision below the belly button. Surgeons are guided through the use of a laparoscopic camera which is inserted into the belly button.

The benefits of a laparoscopic donor nephrectomy are less pain, a faster recovery, and only a minor scar. The hospital stay and recovery time for the donor is cut in half with this new procedure.

Dr. Patrick Luke, Urologist, and Dr. Douglas Quan, Surgeon, along with the assistance of Dr. Eugene Cho from the University of Maryland, completed the first procedure at LHSC.

Dr. Luke says, "We are really pleased with the success of our first procedure. The fact that it is minimally invasive offers a wonderful, less demanding option for kidney donors."

Dr. Quan adds, "This will likely be the standard of care for living donor kidney retrieval in 5 years. However, anatomical differences in people may prohibit this type of procedure being used in everyone."

Dan Smith of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was the first donor to have the laparoscopic nephrectomy at LHSC. He donated his kidney to his wife Barb who battled kidney disease for 16 years, and had been on dialysis for the last five years. Barb's health really began to deteriorate last year, and she knew it was time for a kidney transplant. Dan Smith says he was confident he and his wife would be a match, and they were. Dan says, "My decision to donate my kidney was a little selfish too, because I wanted my wife back."

About her husband donating his kidney to her, Barb Smith says, "I never asked him, or anyone else to donate. Dan was just determined the kidney I needed was going to be his. How do you ever say thank-you for such a wonderful gift?" Both Dan and Barb are doing remarkably well since their surgeries. Barb adds, "Ever since the transplant, I can't wipe the grin off my face. It's been a wonderful change for the whole family."

Dr. William Wall, Director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at LHSC, says, "This latest development in transplantation at LHSC underscores the commitment of the hospital and its staff to provide the best in patient care."

Tony Dagnone, LHSC President and CEO, says, "We are proud of the care team associated with our Transplant Program, which enjoys a national reputation for its clinical results and innovation."

The Transplant Program at LHSC expects to do between 10 and 20 laparoscopic donor nephrectomies this year.

Living donors have been used for more than three decades because they can safely donate one of their two kidneys and still live a healthy life. Of the total 78 kidney transplants performed by the LHSC Transplant Team last year, 21 came from living donors.


Transplant patients Dan and Barb Smith, Dr. Patrick Luke, LHSC Urologist, Dr. Douglas Quan, LHSC Surgeon.

From left to right: Transplant patients Dan and Barb Smith, Dr. Patrick Luke, LHSC Urologist, Dr. Douglas Quan, LHSC Surgeon