Surgeons Perform First-Ever Six-Kidney Transplant Operation

Johns Hopkins surgeons transplanted a half-dozen kidneys simultaneously, an operation believed to be the first of its kind, hospital officials announced Tuesday.

The transplants conducted Saturday were made possible when a so-called altruistic donor, who was willing to donate to anyone, was found to be a match for one of five transplant candidates, each of whom had a willing but incompatible donor. That enabled a chain of donations involving the six donors and six recipients from a waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing.

The 10-hour surgeries used six operating rooms and nine surgical teams.

The six-way transplant follows a quintuple transplant performed in 2006 at the hospital and several triple transplants.

Most kidney transplants use organs taken from people who have died, but doctors prefer organs from live donors because the success rates are higher. The donors and recipients in the six-way transplant were matched using a living-donor system developed at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of Hopkins' transplant center and head of the transplant team, has advocated a wider system of connecting altruistic donors, transplant candidates and incompatible but willing donors to increase the number of available organs.