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Five People Receive Group Kidney Transplant

Five people received new kidneys last week in what hospital officials on Monday described as the first-ever quintuple kidney transplant.

Several triple transplants have previously been performed at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center in Baltimore, but hospital officials say the five simultaneous transplants performed Tuesday are a first.

The operations involved six operating rooms, twelve surgeons, 11 anesthesiologists, and 18 nurses, hospital officials said. The donor surgeries began at 7:15 a.m. and were finished at 11 a.m. The transplant procedures began at 1 p.m. and were finished at 5:15 a.m.

The donors and recipients came from Ontario, West Virginia, Florida, Maine, and Maryland, officials said.

The five recipients included four who approached Johns Hopkins separately with relatives who were willing, but incompatible donors. The fifth had been on a waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor, said Eric Vohr, a Johns Hopkins spokesman.

The fifth donor was a so-called "altruistic donor" — someone who was not related to and did not know any of the five people in need of a kidney, Vohr said.

In August 2003, Johns Hopkins surgeons performed three simultaneous kidney transplants among three patients who had come to the hospital with willing, but incompatible donors.

And last year, Johns Hopkins doctors performed a triple transplant involving an altruistic donor who was willing to give his kidney to anyone who needed one. In that case, the altruistic donor was a member of a Christian religious group, many of whose members have donated kidneys to strangers.

Annie Moore, a spokeswoman for the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit organization that coordinates U.S. organ transplants, said the quintuple transplant was the first of which her organization was aware. Triple transplants are the most that have been performed to date, and paired transplants are more common, Moore said.

Whether more large-scale transplants will be performed is unclear, she said.

"You have to have the right situation in place," Moore said. "Will we see another? We could see another five. I'm not sure, though."