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Thursday, July 23, 1998 Published at 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK


Dying kidneys kept alive

Technology could save hundreds of lives

Doctors are using a machine that can keep kidneys alive outside the body until they are needed for transplant surgery.

The American machine, the first of its kind in the UK, is helping renal specialists at Leicester General Hospital overcome the problem of an acute shortage of kidneys available for transplantation.

The high tech system, known as a kidney pulsatile perfusion machine, can keep alive "non heart beating" kidneys from donors who have not been kept on a life support machine.

It can also help doctors to assess whether an organ is working properly before transplantation takes place.

The kidney can be kept alive for up to 72 hours by circulating preservation fluid around the organ which delivers the oxygen needed to ensure tissues do not die.

Hundreds more transplants

Professor Michael Nicholson, of the University of Leicester, said that if the machine was used in every specialist unit in the country an extra 500 transplants could be done each year.

Professor Nicholson said: "It will mean that we won't transplant kidneys that are not going to work.

"But it might also increase the number of kidneys we can use that we previously might have discarded because we were not sure about their outcome."

Kidney sisters

[ image: Jean Green:
Jean Green: "We are kidney sisters"
Lincolnshire women Jean Green and Barbara Armitage each received a kidney from the same donor. Both organs were technically dying, but were kept viable using the machine.

Barbara said: "It is a miracle how technology has evolved."

Jean said: "We are kidney sisters. We joked about the kidneys themselves, mine was Sidney kidney, and hers was Colin kidney. I used to say is Colin working yet?"

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