Can A Donated Kidney Be Reused?

For patients with kidney issues, there comes a time when a transplant is the only option left. Getting a donor with a matching blood group and tissue profile is one of the most challenging tasks in a kidney transplant. With donor kidneys in short supply, it makes us wonder if transplanted kidneys can be reused for another patient. To answer such questions, here are some important things to understand.

Cases of reusing a donated kidney – There have only been a few cases of doctors reusing a transplanted kidney for another patient. One successful case comes from 2005. The original kidney was taken from a 40-year-old man, who was declared brain dead. The kidney was transplanted into a 45-year-old man.

After nine years, the kidney was taken from the recipient post his death. It was then reused in a 40-year-old man. Follow-up of four years showed that the reuse of donated kidney was successful. There have been a few other cases of reusing transplanted kidneys. It is not the preferred choice for doctors, due to the complications involved.

Risk of rejection – One of the primary reasons why doctors avoid reusing transplanted kidneys is the high risk of rejection. Even the first recipient faces a high risk of rejection. A lot of immunosuppressive drugs are used to make the body accept the transplanted organ. In case of the second recipient, the risk of rejection is even higher. This is due to the antibodies that the first recipient’s body develops against the donated kidney. Complications are even more if the first transplant had failed due to rejection. In such cases, reusing the kidney may again lead to rejection.

Health of the donor and recipient – Both the donor and the recipient should qualify for health parameters defined by the transplant team. The donor especially should be able to bear the emotional and physical challenges that come with complicated surgical procedures such as kidney transplant.

Availability of first-use kidney – The option to reuse a transplanted kidney will depend on availability of a donor kidney. If there is little chance of getting a first-use kidney, and if a transplanted kidney is available, the doctors may consider using it. Patient consent is also necessary in this process. However, in most cases, patients choose to wait instead of reusing a transplanted kidney.

As is evident from above, it is possible to reuse a transplanted kidney. But such cases are quite rare. Decision to reuse a transplanted kidney is taken after intense evaluation and discussion. Doctors have to ensure that the kidney is healthy and does not have any type of infection. Before reusing the kidney, it is necessary to remove the scar tissue that may have formed from the first transplant. Even with all the precautions, success of kidney reuse cases is not as good as that of a first transplant.

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