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Preserving Kidneys on a Pump May Promote More Organ Sharing

Preserving the kidneys of deceased older donors on a pump as opposed to the conventional method of storing and transporting organs in a cooler may lower hospital costs, improve initial organ function, and promote greater use and more sharing of organs, according to new research by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

By placing kidneys on a portable pump, preservation times can be safely extended to permit more time for sharing organs across the country, said Robert Stratta, M.D., lead researcher of the study, which is reported in the May issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

In addition, Stratta said, the pump can be used to project the kidneys initial function allowing for more appropriate matching of donor organs and recipients.

While machine preservation, or pulsatile perfusion, is not new, it is not widely used because it is more costly and labor-intensive. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, only 21 percent of kidneys from deceased donors are preserved on a pump.

The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes in kidney transplant patients receiving kidneys from older deceased donors based on whether organs were preserved by pump or cold storage.

The critical organ shortage poses a challenge to optimize the use and function of all organs from deceased donors, said Stratta, explaining why it is important to compare the two methods of preservation.

With machine preservation, donated organs are connected to a portable pump to maintain a constant flow of a specialized preservation solution through the organs until transplantation. With both methods of preservation, a cooling solution is pumped into the organs during organ recovery. However, with simple cold storage, the kidneys are simply immersed in preservation solution and packed on ice until transplant.

The study involved organs from expanded criteria donors (ECDs). This c
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