It was on a Tuesday, Vertis Boyce remembers, that she received a call about a possible life-changing surgery. Early in the morning, the kidney transplant coordinator called saying one of their kidneys was eligible for the 69-year-old woman to receive. However, there was a complicated backstory to the organ that needed explaining first.
Boyce told Healthline that this would be the second transplant for that kidney.
Boyce had been on the kidney donation list for eight and a half years. So when the doctors asked if she wanted the reused kidney, her answer was yes.
New Horizons for Transplant Surgeons in Kidneys and Perhaps Beyond?
Such procedures are not standard and are only possible in certain circumstances when the owner of the kidney dies without damaging it, and the organ isn’t worn out.
Veale says nearly 25 percent of those with donated kidneys die with their donated organ still available for reuse. Usually, those kidneys go to waste. If more are salvaged, hundreds of lives could be saved.
The original owner of the kidney Boyce received was a 17-year-old girl. It then went to a 25-year-old man who died two years after in a motorcycle crash.
Controversy as to who the kidneys should go to does exist. Should it be a younger person who will use it for longer? Or should they try to match recipients with those who match the age of the kidney they are receiving?
This option opens up a new way of donating as well. Now, recipients of organs can give them again if they so chose when they pass away.
Out of the millions of kidney transplants in the past six decades, less than 50 have been re-transplants. However, the process could become more commonplace in the future.
The combination of factors that have to happen for re-transplants to occur, however, may keep the number lower than Veale would hope.
He does note that the original organ being from a younger person allows for a longer life for the kidney. Limitations also may exist depending on how long the first recipient had the new kidney before they passed.
In the future, this procedure could work for other organs. Veale said livers could be the next organ to try a re-transplantation.