Live kidney transplants set to resume

Program was suspended after surgery mishap

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    The University of Toledo Medical Center will resume performing live kidney transplants, which were suspended in August after a viable kidney was thrown away during a surgery.

    Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor and executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs, gave the update on Tuesday at a clinical affairs committee of the university’s board of trustees. The next live kidney transplant surgery will be scheduled in several weeks.

    Dr. Gold said United Network for Organ Sharing notified the university it could reinstate the program after it was shut down on Aug. 10 following an error by a nurse in which a usable kidney was thrown out during a transplant procedure at UTMC, formerly the Medical College of Ohio Hospital.

    The hospital ceased its live kidney donor program voluntarily as it underwent reviews and reports. Surgeries for hundreds of potential donors and patients needing kidneys were put on hold. The university has continued to perform kidney transplants from cadaver donors.

    "The membership and professional standards committee of UNOS had endorsed lifting out voluntary suspension of our live kidney program following extensive reviews, site visits, and extensive documentation," Dr. Gold said.

    The UNOS endorsement came with no recommendations or restrictions, Dr. Gold said.

    "It reaffirms the longstanding history, the legacy of quality of the transplant program. It reaffirms the dedication of the physicians and nurses and transplant staff who have worked so long and hard to make this one of the oldest and highly regarded programs of its type in the country," Dr. Gold said. "It has gotten us to focus on the overall quality and safety of health care, not only in our medical center, but across the country. Indeed, the number of opportunities to continue to improve outcomes in health care are tremendous."

    Dr. Gold declined to comment on the status of the patient who was to receive her brother's kidney on Aug. 10, citing privacy laws and the family's desire for privacy. University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs has previously said he was confident she would receive a kidney through the chain of kidney donations pioneered by UTMC's Dr. Michael Rees and his Alliance for Paired Donation Inc.

    Dr. Jacobs said he fully anticipated UNOS, which is the private, nonprofit organization that manages the U.S. organ transplant system under contract with the federal government, would endorse restarting UTMC's live kidney transplant program.

    "We have a very high-quality program," he said. "We have responded to an isolated incident in a tremendously positive way. ... This is not about getting our tickets punched or our tickets revalidated. This is about behaving in a leadership way as befits a great university."

    Dr. Rees, one of two surgeons who perform kidney transplants at the medical center, removed the kidney on Aug. 10 that was accidentally discarded by a nurse. Two involved nurses no longer work at UTMC, and Dr. Rees was stripped of his director’s title but remains on staff. According to a UTMC corrective action form for one of the team members involved that day, Dr. Rees had completed the first surgery when he turned around to retrieve the donor kidney from the slush machine and discovered the grave error.

    After the botched handling of the surgery , UTMC hired Dr. Marlon Levy of Fort Worth, a transplant surgeon and expert in his field, to review its living kidney donor program. The review by Dr. Levy, surgical director, transplantation, at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth, supplemented an investigation started by UNOS and the Ohio Department of Health on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

    The family at the center of the failed transplant surgery has asked for privacy and declined all requests for media interviews. They could sue the University of Toledo on a negligence claim and any lawsuit would have to be decided in the state Court of Claims and not by a jury. As of Tuesday, no case had been filed against UTMC.

    UTMC officials acknowledged that "human error" led to ruining the kidney removed from the living donor.

    Contact Ignazio Messina at: