89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

There's been a breakthrough in organ transplants


We have news of a development in organ transplants. Surgeons at Northwestern Medicine say they successfully transplanted a kidney while the patient was awake.


Yeah, now I'm awake. It's one of the first times a procedure has been performed this way. And it's a departure from the typical transplant procedure that goes back 70 years.

SATISH NADIG: The way we do kidney transplant today, traditionally, is the same way that Dr. Joseph Murray did it in 1954, which he ended up winning the Nobel Prize for.

MARTÍNEZ: Dr. Satish Nadig directs the transplant center at Northwestern Medicine, which is affiliated with Northwestern University.

NADIG: The average length of stay for a kidney transplat patient is about five to seven days in the hospital. Here at Northwestern, we've really shortened that to about three days. So we really wanted to push the envelope and say, how can we make this feel better?

INSKEEP: Nadig's team wanted to limit the pain and the risk and the time spent in the hospital. His team noted that women give birth while they're conscious and decided to apply that same technique to kidney surgery, using what's called a regional anesthetic blocking pain from the lower body.

NADIG: And if you look at people that have C-sections, they have it under spinal epidural. If you look at people having colonoscopies, they have it under sedation the same day. Can we take a major operation, and given the technology we have in 2024, make it an overnight procedure?

INSKEEP: The team asked 28-year-old John Nicholas to be their medical pioneer.

NADIG: We knew he would have a good outcome from transplant, even the traditional way, given that he was young and otherwise healthy. And he was very much on board with really trying to help us, you know, change the paradigm of transplant.

MARTÍNEZ: The patient's best friend since elementary school, 29-year-old Pat Wise, volunteered to donate a kidney. And the surgery took less than two hours.

NADIG: I was talking to him the whole time. He was asking me if he could eat. I was giving him instructions about the transplant. He was asking me about the transplant. He had an overnight stay and was discharged the next day with a working, functioning kidney, with his end-stage renal failure cured.

MARTÍNEZ: Rewarding for the patient and for Dr. Nadig and his medical team.

NADIG: There are not many fields in medicine that you can impact a life so tangibly and so directly, and so quickly, honestly.

INSKEEP: Which offers some hope for the more than 90,000 people in the United States who are waiting for a kidney transplant.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

[Copyright 2024 NPR]