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Densensitization Procedure Helps Hard-to-Match Kidney Recipients
Date:7/27/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- A combination therapy that "desensitizes" kidney transplant recipients could help hard-to-match patients find a needed kidney faster.

The desensitization procedure combines the use of plasmapheresis -- a machine that filters the blood plasma to remove antibodies -- and low-doses of a medication called intravenous immune globulin (IVIG).

The combination of these therapies improves survival rates dramatically. Eight years after receiving a transplant, survival rates were 81 percent for those who received the treatment compared to just 31 percent for people who had to stay on dialysis, new research found.

"This is a huge unmet problem. There are probably as many as 30,000 people who have been exposed to foreign tissue waiting for a kidney. They're really hard to match," explained study author Dr. Robert Montgomery, director of the comprehensive transplant program at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"This therapy will allow earlier transplantation for someone who's hard to match. This is one of those rare things in health care that's a win-win. It will save money long-term and improve quality-of-life," he said.

Results of the study are published in the July 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The problem with these particular patients is that they've been "sensitized" to substances known as human leukocyte antigens (HLA). Everyone has six of these antigens, which are proteins found on white blood cells. You inherit three antigens from each parent, according to the National Kidney Foundation. When a kidney patient is evaluated for a transplant, doctors try to match as many of those antigens as possible, to improve the chance of a successful transplant.

But, some people have been exposed to other antigens, which can cau
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