Patient with Hepatitis C Gets Kidney from Donor with Same Disease

Surgeons transplanted a kidney from a donor who had hepatitis C to a recipient who also has the disease in what is believed to be the first of its kind in the state of Utah.

Surgeons transplanted a kidney from a donor who had hepatitis C to a recipient who also has the disease in what is believed to be the first procedure of its kind in the state of Utah, health officials there said.

Newly developed drugs for hepatitis C virus (HCV) have high cure rates but also potential harmful side effects for patients with kidney disease and therefore the drugs are not approved for this patient population, Paul J. Campsen, MD, surgical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, said in an interview with HCPLive.com. The transplant was done in late July and the patient went home four days later, no longer in need of dialysis.

“He was super animated again and he said all of his energy is back” Campsen said of the 61-year-old patient. “It’s the same stuff we see with all of our patients. Dialysis keeps you alive but it’s not the same quality as a human organ that filters the body.”

“We will follow him for years and years. We say he is part of the team now because he received an organ transplant. Part of that treatment will be to take care of his hepatitis c so that he can live with a functioning kidney for decades,” Campsen said.

The kidney came from a deceased donor and before the transplant, doctors biopsied it to confirm that it was normal, Campsen said. Because the recipient agreed to a transplant using a kidney from a donor with HCV, he was able to have the operation one to two years earlier.

Kidney transplantation has long been used as a successful treatment for patients on dialysis as a result of kidney failure. However, long waiting lists for a suitable kidney from either a living donor or cadaver can delay the operation for years.

“All the studies have shown that kidney transplant not only improves the quality of life - because you’re no longer on dialysis you don’t feel bad - but it actually extends your life significantly and that benefit is reached at about two years after a kidney transplant…” Campsen said.

According to Campsen, this latest case illustrates that preconceived notions that some people can’t donate are not necessarily true. “Then if you do donate you can really, really see how much it helps people in organ failure,” he said.

Health officials estimate that up to 150 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis C, a bloodborne virus that if left untreated can severely damage the liver. Over time it can cause cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for a transplant.

Though the practice of transplanting organs from patients who have HCV has been controversial, the scarcity of organs available for transplant has prompted surgeons to offer the option in appropriate cases with patient recipients who also are HCV infected.

“We sat down about a year ago in our program and basically said we know the (newer) hepatitis C drugs are coming soon,” explained Campsen. “We have a handful of patients that have hepatitis C and renal failure. They don't need a liver transplant they just need a kidney transplant.”

Campsen said his university transplant center’s interdisciplinary approach to treatment allows it to tackle complex medical cases that combine proven and safe medical theory and practice. The transplant was the first phase of treatment for the most recent patient who is expected to take about 100 days to recover from the operation before he can begin interferon-free HCV treatment that has shown up to 90% cure rates in clinical trials.