Rady Alumnus Dr. Ajai Khanna Performs San Diego County’s First “Paired Donor Transplant”

By Kim Edwards, UC San Diego Health Sciences Communications


When Patti Ford and Robyn Bryan first met on a sunny July day, they threw their arms around each other and hugged, as if they were the best of friends. Truth be told, they were perfect strangers…strangers on their way to becoming family.

A few weeks later, Robyn gave Patti one of her kidneys. In return, Patti’s husband, Patrick, gave Robyn’s husband, Paul, one of his kidneys. The landmark transplants, which took place on the same day, are the first “paired exchange kidney donations” to be performed south of Los Angeles County involving donors and recipients who did not know each other.

UC San Diego Medical Center surgeons believe the “paired donation” procedure could benefit hundreds of patients each year. The same team, with surgeons Dr. Marquis Hart and Dr. Ajai Khanna, performed San Diego County’s first-ever “domino” liver transplant in 2004.

Dr. Khanna, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, is the director of abdominal transplant at UC San Diego Medical Center. He was a member of the Rady School’s inaugural FlexMBA class. He is also a donor to the Rady School, helping to provide funding for the FlexMBA class of 2006’s class gift.

The story began when Patti, who has polycystic kidney disease, started looking for answers. Her mother died from the disease and Patti knew if she didn't get a new kidney, she would suffer the same fate. Her husband, Patrick, 42, wanted to donate but was not a match – she's blood type A, he’s type B.

Patti asked UC San Diego Medical Center coordinator Tina Kress if there was a chance of finding another donor-recipient “pair” and “swap” kidneys?

That very day, Tina was preparing to call Paul Bryan also suffering from polycystic kidney disease and facing dialysis to give him bad news: his wife, Robyn, was not a match. “That’s when I made the connection,” said Kress. “The Bryans were exactly the kind of donor-recipient pair that Patti and Patrick needed.”

After many conversations and extensive medical testing, the day arrived: Robyn gave Patti her kidney. Patrick gave Paul his kidney. The transplant donors helped save their recipient and their own spouse.

In the United States, only about 600 paired kidney transplants have taken place in the last decade. Doctors believe the procedure could help hundreds more transplant patients per year, if the idea is extended to regions and the nation.

“There is a wide discrepancy between the number of patients awaiting kidney transplants and the number of available donor organs (via deceased patients),” explained Dr. Khanna. “Live donation from a compatible donor helps circumvent this problem.”

“What made this surgery successful is that we used a laparoscopic, minimally invasive approach,” added Marquis Hart, M.D., primary surgeon, abdominal transplant. “In one case we were able to use only two small incisions. We are hoping the availability of this procedure at UC San Diego and public awareness that this paired donation technique exists will encourage more patients and their prospective donors to consider this option.”

To learn more about the UC San Diego Medical Center, visit http://health.ucsd.edu.

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