New warnings about transplant tourism

'Sunday Morning Housecall': Drs. Samadi and Siegel discuss the risks involved, provide an overview of the transplant system


Transplant tourism has become increasingly popular.

This type of tourism is not your regular type of tourism, but the type that involves traveling to another country where people can buy an organ such as a kidney on the black market. Those who opt for transplant tourism are often patients who have been on waitlists to receive an organ for quite some time and have become desperate and tired of waiting. According to federal government statistics, the average waiting time for a kidney transplant is about four years.

A new study from Bahrain suggests that the health risks involved with transplant tourism are simply not worth it. Researchers say that receiving an organ through transplant tourism can lead to serious and life-threatening complications including liver disease, hepatitis B and C. The people in the study most often traveled to countries like the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Iran. The study showed that the quality is not the same; the risk of infection is higher, there were higher rates of surgical complications and organ rejection, and most importantly, there is no follow up care.

Facts about transplants in the U.S.

• There are about 75,000 people on active waiting lists for organs every day

• At the same time, there are only 14,000 possible donors

• The most commonly transplanted organs are kidney, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas and intestine

A kidney transplant is one of the most common organ transplants. In the United States, there are about 100,000 people with kidney disease waiting to get a kidney transplant. While this is an alarmingly high number, using transplant tourism as an alternative option is not the best choice. Other than the surgical complications that can arise, it is also risky because the organ donors may also not be screened properly and therefore the recipients may not be good candidates for a transplant.

For people who have advanced chronic kidney failure, there are two available treatment options: dialysis or a transplant.

Unfortunately, there are not enough donor organs to go around. In the United States, there are about one million people with end-stage kidney disease according to the National Kidney Foundation. At the same time, there are about 100,000 people on the waiting list for a transplant.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.