The National Kidney Registry just announced that the longest kidney chain that it has ever facilitated has come to an end. Kidney exchanges like NKR facilitate transplants whereby pairs of donors and recipients who are not compatible with each other can swap with another pair to get a matching kidney. A kidney chain starts with a nondirected donor that causes a domino effect whereby these pairs form a transplant chain. The chain ends when a final recipient without a donor gets a transplant.

This record-setting chain consisted of 21 transplants (meaning 42 operations) over the course of eight months at 11 different hospitals across the U.S. A novel feature of this chain is that in some cases the donor’s surgery was in a different hospital than the recipient’s. This requires the organ to be transported, but saves the donor from having to travel and recover in a hospital away from home. The story of this chain has been covered by many news outlets, including the CBS Evening News. The best graphic describing the chain appeared in SignOn San Diego.


A 21-way chain. Image from SignOn San Diego

Other large chains were featured in this blog in Feb 2010 (11 transplants), Dec 2009 (3 chains, 13 transplants), and Nov 2009 (10 transplants). If you want to be a person who starts a kidney chain by being a nondirected donor, contact a participating transplant center. Lists of some participating centers are available at the National Kidney Registry, Alliance for Paired Donation, Paired Donation Network, and New England Program for Kidney Exchange.