Living-donor kidney program increases access to life-saving surgery | Ascension

Living-donor kidney program increases access to life-saving surgery


With the need for kidney transplants exceeding organ availability, many people have to wait years for life-saving surgery. To reduce wait time for available kidneys, Ascension Sacred Heart Kidney Transplant Program is expanding donor access by including living-donor kidney transplants.

Most people are born with two kidneys but can live safely with just one. Living kidney donation involves transferring a healthy kidney from a donor to a recipient whose kidneys are failing. A living donor can be a loved one, acquaintance or anonymous, and does not need to be a blood relative.

The Ascension Sacred Heart Kidney Transplant Program is a win-win for the community because it increases the likelihood of successful outcomes while decreasing the wait for a donor kidney in patients with end-stage kidney disease. Dr. Alp Demirag, one of two kidney transplant surgeons at Ascension Sacred Heart Kidney Transplant Program, said living-donor kidneys are the best option.

“With a live donation, a patient can get a transplant within a few months,” Demirag explains. “Organs from live donors are rejected less often and are more durable, so both short-term and long-term success is better.”

The number of people awaiting a kidney transplant is overwhelming. In the U.S., more than 90,000 people are on the kidney transplant waiting list. In 2021, only about 24,000 people received a kidney from a deceased donor. Many factors can affect wait time, such as blood type, when a patient starts dialysis and population disparities in the area. According to Dr. Demirag, some people in Florida can wait up to six years for a transplant because of the gap in kidney availability.

As the only hospital in the region with a kidney transplant program, Ascension Sacred Heart offers kidney transplantation surgery close to home. Kidney transplant surgeons Dr. Wen Xie and Dr. Demirag recently completed their 100th kidney transplant.

For more information, call the Living Donor Kidney Program coordinator at 850-416-0278.