1000th Laparoscopic Kidney Removal from Living Donor Marks Milestone in Efforts to Ease Kidney Shortage

For immediate release: September 20, 2005


Bill Seiler

bseiler@umm.edu | 410-328-8919

The University of Maryland Medical Center is first in U.S. to reach this milestone

The University of Maryland Medical Center has performed 1,000 minimally-invasive kidney removals from people who have donated a kidney to a family member or friend, the most of any hospital in the United States. The 1,000th donor is 45-year old John Gatten, the mayor of Newville, Pa., who gave his kidney to his brother-in-law, Dennis Negley, 57, of Gettysburg, Pa., whose kidney failure was due to Type I diabetes. The kidney removal and transplant were performed on August 31. Gatten went home from the hospital less than 24 hours after the surgery.

Compared to the traditional kidney removal operation, which requires a large incision and up to six weeks of recuperation time, the minimally-invasive technique is performed with tiny incisions. Kidney donors are able to leave the hospital within two days, on average, and return to their normal activities within a couple of weeks.

“This technique has made a tremendous impact on our ability to help more people who need a kidney transplant,” says Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D., a transplant surgeon who is chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center as well as professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Since the laparoscopic procedure enables donors to get back to work and caring for their families in a short period of time, we have found that people who need a kidney are much more likely now to ask a family member or friend to donate,” says Dr. Bartlett, who performed Negley’s transplant.

“More than 63,000 people across the U.S. are on a waiting list to have a kidney transplant, and there is a severe shortage of deceased donors. Every patient who receives a kidney from a living donor makes it possible for those on the waiting list to have a better chance of getting a kidney transplant from a deceased donor,” Dr. Bartlett adds.

Nationally, in 2004, the number of living donors (6,684) surpassed the number of kidney transplants performed with kidneys from deceased donors (6,326).

The University of Maryland Medical Center began performing the minimally-invasive kidney removal surgeries in March 1996. Donors have ranged in age from 18 to 74 years and have come from 34 states and five foreign countries. Sixty percent of the donors were women and 27 percent were African American. The University of Maryland Medical Center performed 222 kidney transplants in fiscal year 2005, and 32 percent involved kidneys from living donors.

A laparoscope is a tube that contains a tiny video camera. Surgeons watch what they are doing on video monitors that project images from the laparoscope rather than looking into the body through a large incision.

"We have learned from our extensive experience that not only is the laparoscopic technique easier for the donor, it also allows the recipient to gain a kidney that functions well—as well as a kidney taken out the traditional way,” says Michael W. Phelan, M.D., director of Minimally Invasive Urological Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “That is an important consideration, because they want to be assured that their kidney will work well after it is taken out so it will benefit the recipient,” adds Dr. Phelan, who removed Gatten’s kidney for the transplant.

“Donors are heroes, deserving of a great deal of respect. Society should not forget the special gift that these donors give,” says Stephen Jacobs, M.D., professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a urologist who preformed many of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s laparoscopic kidney removals, including the first one in March 1996.

Dr. Jacobs adds, “We do all we can to help donors accomplish their goal and we believe that we have contributed by streamlining and improving the surgery for these 1,000 donors.”

“Laparoscopic kidney removal is the most technically demanding type of minimally invasive surgery. It requires extensive, specialized training and the best results come from hospitals with the most experience,” says Adrian Park, M.D., head of general surgery and the Minimally Invasive Therapy Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Negley, a telephone company employee, began having kidney problems 14 years ago. He had lost about 85 percent of his kidney function by the time he came to the University of Maryland Medical Center last spring to be evaluated for a transplant. Three family members offered to donate a kidney and were tested, and the family ultimately decided that the donor would be Gatten, the husband of Negley’s sister, Duryea.

“Before the transplant, I was always tired and would often fall asleep often during the day. Now I feel great and have a lot more energy. I hope to go back to work and start bowling again, which I really enjoy,” says Negley, who has bowled two perfect games in the past. Negley and his wife, Joyce, have been married for 36 years and have two children.

“He’s doing really well. He was a very energetic person before he became ill and I hope this transplant will allow him to resume the active life he used to enjoy,” says Gatten, who, in addition to being the mayor of Newville, Pa., is a case manager for children and adolescents who have mental health issues.

Negley is clearly thankful for the kidney donation from his brother in law, saying, “I sure appreciate him giving me the gift of life.”

For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538.

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