Program for Incompatible Kidney Transplantsundefined

  • Many patients have living kidney donors who are not a match to them because of blood group incompatibility or tissue type incompatibility but are otherwise acceptable donors. In the past, the only option for these patients was to wait 3 to 7 years for a compatible deceased donor kidney or to enter a living donor kidney paired donation program.
  • The Program for Incompatible Transplants offers some potential recipients the option to receive a living donor kidney from an incompatible donor. Depending on the type and degree of incompatibility, medical technology may be able to overcome those immune system responses that cause immediate transplant rejection and immediate loss of the transplant. Many successful incompatible transplants have been performed in the United States and around the world.

  • An incompatible transplant can be more complicated, and present a higher risk than a compatible transplant and require increased time and effort on the part of the recipient and the transplant team. Extra clinical appointments, therapies, diagnostics tests and procedures are required for this type of transplant.

  • Potential recipient and donors will be fully educated on incompatible transplant if the transplant team determines this type of transplant is an option. In addition, recipients and donors must complete all necessary medical and psychosocial evaluations and be deemed acceptable candidates.
  • Insurance clearance will be required before treatment begins. Your insurance will be reviewed by the Financial Coordinator and will be discussed with you.

Types of Incompatible Transplants:

Blood Group Incompatible:
In the past, only certain blood groups could donate to each other.

Recipient Compatible Donor:
Blood Group O O
Blood Group A O or A
Blood Group B O or B
Blood Group AB O or A or B or AB

Blood Group Incompatibility occurs when donor/recipient pairs have incompatible blood groups.

As part of our immune system, we have natural antibodies against different blood groups (blood group antibody). In some cases, it is now possible to decrease the blood group antibody to a safer level and proceed with the transplant procedure. If the initial level is too high, it may be impossible to reduce it to a safe level and the risk of transplant rejection and failure is too high to proceed safely. If the initial antibody level is acceptable and it is deemed possible to reduce it to a safe level for successful transplantation, you will meet with the transplant physician who will discuss the process of incompatible transplantation in detail.

Tissue Type Incompatibility:
Many times recipients and their donors are blood group compatible but the crossmatch or tissues (human leukocyte antigens – HLA) are incompatible. Crossmatching involves the mixing of the recipient and donor’s blood to see if the recipient has developed any antibodies to the donor’s tissues or HLA. If the crossmatch is positive, this means the recipient has developed antibodies against the donor’s HLA. These antibodies are formed when the patient has a previous exposure to another’s antigens: pregnancy, blood transfusion or a previous transplant. The antibody level can vary which determines if a transplant can take place. In the past a negative cross match was required for a transplant to take place. Now it is possible to remove many of the harmful antibodies prior to transplant.

How are Antibodies Removed and Prevented from Returning?

For both Blood Group Incompatible and Tissue Incompatible transplants, the therapy used to decrease the antibody levels is named plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) and a medication named intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). The number of treatments required is determined by the level of antibodies in the blood. Usually the treatments are done before and after the transplant. The antibody levels are monitored at certain intervals to make sure the treatment is working. If the initial antibody levels are very high, the risk of transplant rejection is too high and the transplant cannot be performed safely.

In both types of the incompatible transplants, there is a risk of the harmful antibodies returning. Plasmapheresis and IVIG will continue for several days after the transplant procedure to prevent this.

Several other immunosuppressive drugs will be given during and after the transplant procedure for the life of your kidney. These will be discussed in detail during the evaluation process. If rejection is suspected the recipient may need additional plasmapheresis treatments. Blood tests and a kidney biopsy will be done to determine if the rejection is due to the antibodies returning.

Plasma Exchange (also known as Plasmapheresis) and Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG)

Plasma exchange removes a part of your blood called plasma. It is replaced with a solution such as albumin, saline or fresh frozen plasma. This treatment is performed in the hospital as an outpatient and takes approximately 2 hours to complete. The plasma is removed because most of the antibodies in the body are found in it. After the treatment, you will also receive a medication called intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). This reduces the likelihood of antibodies that have been removed from reproducing themselves.

Blood Access:
For plasmapheresis to take place, there must be a way to remove and return the patient’s blood during the treatments. If the patient is on dialysis, he /she will already have a fistula, graft or Permacath. If the patient is not yet on dialysis, he/she will need to have a Permacath inserted. A Permacath is a special IV that is inserted into a large blood vessel in your neck or upper chest and is threaded into the right side of the heart. This is done as an outpatient hospital procedure. This catheter will remain in place until the treatments have been completed.

What are the Requirements for Transplantation?
All potential willing donors for the patient must be evaluated. If no compatible donors are found, then any medically eligible incompatible donors will be considered. An incompatible transplant is more complicated and higher risk than a compatible transplant and requires increased time and effort on the part of the recipient and the transplant team. The patient and family must be agreeable and committed to the visits, therapies, diagnostics tests and procedures that this type of transplant requires

Many insurance companies cover all or most of the costs related to the incompatible transplant. Your insurance will be reviewed by the Financial Coordinator and she will discuss any direct costs or financial responsibilities that you may incur.

For more information or to discuss your eligibility for the Program for Incompatible Transplants, please contact the Living Donor Institute at 973-322-5346.

Patient Stories

  • “I’ve always had a good feeling about the hospital, and when I spoke to the people at the transplant center, I felt at ease. The staff was wonderful.”

    Read More
  • Her donation was the start of a chain of kidney donations the led to three patients receiving life-saving kidney donations.

    Read More
  • “It’s a wonderful thing. I have so much more energy now, and I have so much more time to myself."

    Read More

Patient Stories

  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial