The University of New Mexico recently marked the 30thanniversary of its Kidney Transplant program by completing the1000thkidney transplantation operation. Michael Davis, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery, led the UNM kidney transplant team that did the 1,000th surgery shortly before the end of 2005. The patient is doing well and has been released from surgical followup.

"Within the last 30 years, kidney transplantation has transformed from a new, relatively rare procedure to a common occurrence," said Jorge Wernly, M.D., chair of the UNM Department of Surgery. "Today, it is likely that everyone in New Mexico knows of someone who has had a kidney transplant."

Looking at the 999th, 1000thand 1001sttransplant patients provide a snapshot of how kidney disease affects New Mexico's unique populations, said Antonia Harford, M.D., professor of Nephrology within the Department of Medicine and medical director for UNM Renal Transplantation.

Transplant # 999 was performed on a New Mexico woman in her 30s who had her first kidney transplant as a teenager and needed a replacement. The 1000thtransplant was a Hispanic woman who lives in Santa Fe and the 1001stwas a Zuni Pueblo member. UNM physicians treat one of the highest percentages of Native American patients in the country. American Indians and Latinos are twice as likely as Anglos to develop end-stage renal disease.

"We have seen transplantation go from the procedure of last resort for patients to the preferred course of treatment," said Thomas Borden, M.D., former chief of Urology within the UNM Department of Surgery. "We are at the point today where we know that a kidney transplant instead of dialysis will not only improve a patient's quality of life but also extend his or her life."

Transplantation services at University Hospital see approximately 1,200 patients per year in their clinic and follow 500 individual transplant patients. At any given time there are some 2,000 patients on dialysis due to kidney failure. Currently there are more than 200 patients on a waiting list for a transplant. On average, a patient must wait five years for a new kidney.

UNM has built a transplant program with a distinct multidisciplinary approach. Four departments within the School of Medicine are involved in UNM's transplant program: Surgery, Pediatrics, Neurosurgery and Internal Medicine. The Division of Urologic Surgery provides the only two surgeons with fellowship training in transplant surgery: Anthony Smith, M.D., division chief, and Lawrence Gibel, M.D.

UNM is the only center performing pediatric transplants in New Mexico , operating on patients age 4-18. Thomas Borden, M.D., former chief of Urology within the Department of Surgery and the state's only member of the Society of Pediatric Urologists, participated in the early development of the UNM transplant program andcontinues to provide important support to the transplantation of pediatric patients. The Department of Pediatrics also provides two board-certified pediatric nephrologists: John Brandt, M.D., and Craig Wong, M.D.

Antonia Harford,M.D., Transplant Services Medical Director, leads other nephrologists within the department of Internal Medicine in evaluating patients for transplantation, managing immunosuppression treatment, providing long term care of many of our transplant patients, and providing administrative support to the program. Finally, the Department of Neurosurgery plays a role in identifying potential donors for the program.

"We owe a great deal to the people and legislators from across the states who have supported this program through the years. Renal failure can occur at any age and knows no socio-economic barrier. Without external support, we would not have been able to offer this service continually for the past three decades," said Wernly.


Facts About Transplantation and the UNM Transplant Program

  • UNM performs transplants on patients from eastern Arizona and southern Colorado as well as from across New Mexico .
  • The UNM transplantation program supports an extensive staff including five nursing transplant coordinators, nurses especially credentialed in medical care and transplantation who help in evaluating patients being considered in transplantation as well as patients being considered for follow-up; a fulltime medical social worker and three administrative staff. The program also has responsibility for training surgery and nephrology medical residents.
  • About 20 percent of the organ donations at UNM are "Living Donations" which means they take place when a living person donates an organ or part of an organ to someone in need of a transplant. The donor is most often a close family member, such as a parent, child, brother or sister. A donor can also be a more distant family member, spouse, friend or co-worker. Non-directed donors - those who donate anonymously and do not know their recipients - are becoming more common.
  • According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans—one in nine adults—have chronic kidney disease. Some 20 million others are at increased risk for developing kidney disease, and most don't even know it. If left untreated, chronic kidney disease (CKD) can progress to end-stage renal disease or kidney failure, when people need either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.