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Lancet. 1999 Oct 2;354(9185):1143-6.

Kidney damage during organ retrieval: data from UK National Transplant Database. Kidney Advisory Group.

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Scottish Liver Transplant Unit, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, UK.



Kidney damage at organ retrieval is believed to be an increasing problem that is under reported. We aimed to identify the true rate of such damage and assess the effects on transplant survival.


Data from the UK National Transplant Database were analysed on all cadaveric kidneys donated over a 5-year period in the UK. Records indicated whether kidneys had been retrieved by a liver or renal surgical team and whether damage was noted at the time of retrieval or at the transplant procedure. Multivariate Cox's regression models were fitted to 1-year and 3-year transplant-survival data in those kidneys that were transplanted between 1992 and 1994.


Of 9014 kidneys retrieved, 96 could not be transplanted because of damage sustained at retrieval. Damage was reported in 1726 (19%) kidneys although by both donor and recipient centres in only 270 (3%). 1070 (62%) of the damaged organs were from donors aged 40 years or older. Reported kidney damage was more likely for retrievals of kidney only by a renal team (503 [26%]) than for multiorgan retrieval (454 [21%]), the proportion was lower when a liver team retrieved both liver and kidneys (415 [17%]). 794 (14%) kidneys retrieved and retained locally were reported as damaged, compared with 932 (29%) kidneys which had been exported. Donors' age had a significant effect on both 1-year and 3-year transplant survival (p<0.01 for both) but kidney damage did not (1 year p=0.40; 3 year p=0.81).


Despite the high rate of damage to kidneys at retrieval, most of the organs can be transplanted with no adverse effect on transplant survival. Kidney damage is least likely to occur with kidneys from young donors, and when liver teams or centres undertaking more than 50 retrievals per year do the retrieval.

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