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Piedmont Hospital Receives Grant for Equipment to Aid in Donor-Recipient Matching for Organ Transplantation

Posted Feb 26 2010 12:00am

The Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust recently announced a gift awarded to Piedmont Hospital to purchase a flow cytometer, a highly sophisticated piece of equipment used to help match organ transplant donors and recipients and improve transplantation outcomes.

Organ donors and recipients are both required to have human leukocyte antigen (HLA) testing before they can be added to the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) waiting list. HLA testing determines histocompatibility – a condition in which the cells of one tissue can survive in the presence of cells of another tissue. It is critical that both the donor and the recipient share antigens for the transplanted organ to be accepted and remain functional.

“The Mason Trustees felt this investment in capital was appropriate to enable Piedmont to offer timely and effective care to organ transplantation patients,” said Alice Sheets, Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust administrator. “The on-site technology also saves the hospital valuable healthcare dollars, which is a benefit to everyone."

This equipment is integral to Piedmont Hospital adding a 3,750-square-foot HLA laboratory. “Numerous benefits accompany the addition of the flow cytometer to our in-house lab,” said Noreen Carew, administrative director for Piedmont’s Transplant Services. “We no longer have to outsource HLA testing which helps significantly because our patients can be listed with UNOS, or matched with a donor, much quicker. Time is extremely valuable when it comes to organ transplantation.”

On-site HLA testing allows Piedmont to list its Status 7 patients (those who are temporarily unsuitable for transplant) on the UNOS wait list. Facilities with on-site HLA labs can test and list their Status 7 patients in a timely manner, considerably reducing their wait time for an organ.

“The flow cytometer measures histocompatibility using principles of light to generate very specific data from tiny particles and cells,” said Gabriella Henel, Ph.D., histocompatibility expert and director of Piedmont’s HLA Laboratory. “It employs many different lasers to detect and distinguish a number of different biological elements and provides a great deal of information about a patient's immunological state.”

Following transplantation, flow cytometry is used daily to monitor recipients’ immunological responses. If a patient starts to reject an organ, Dr. Henel and Piedmont Hospital’s transplantation experts can help determine the best treatment plan based on HLA antibody levels.

“The sooner the patient gets appropriate treatment for immunosuppression complications, the better chance the rejection can be reversed and the organ saved,” said Carew.

Piedmont Hospital’s Transplant Services program continues to expand and improve access to and the quality of transplant services throughout Georgia with the support of the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Trust.

Piedmont’s Transplantation Program

Piedmont’s Transplant Services program has grown dramatically since its first transplant in 1986. In the past 24 years, 2,220 (through December 2009) transplants have been performed, 204 of which occurred in 2009. Piedmont's extensive experience positions their program among the top 14 percent in the country. Outcome measurements, such as wait times to receive an organ, and graft and patient survival, remain among the best in the nation.

For instance, the median wait time for a kidney transplant at Piedmont is 27.6 months as compared to 36.3 months for the region and 43.2 months for the United States. One of the reasons Piedmont’s kidney transplant wait times are shorter than others is because of their focus on living kidney donation, including related, unrelated and paired donation. Paired exchanges enable incompatible living donor/recipient pairs to be cross-matched with other such pairs from across the country. Piedmont was the first program in Georgia to perform a paired exchange. Piedmont is also the only program in the state participating in two donor networks – the Southeast Consortium and the Paired Donation Network.
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