Local kidney patients are being given new hope from a pioneering transplant technique, which allows surgeons to transplant a kidney from donor to recipient even if their blood types do not match.

This new technique, which was performed by the transplant team at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the first time in September, is only available at a handful of trusts across the country and in Europe .

The first person to undergo the new surgery at St George’s was Steve Purcell, a renal patient at St Helier Hospital in Carshalton. Steve, from West End in Surrey, said: “The transplant has gone amazingly smoothly and I’m eternally grateful to my kidney donor and to the transplant team at St George’s.

“Being able to operate even though there is a blood group difference is a major step forward and opens the door for many more people to access this life-changing operation. Thanks to the transplant I am looking forward to living a normal, active life and hopefully I am the first of many to have a transplant at St George’s using this pioneering technique.”

Consultant transplant surgeon for St George’s, who led the first operation, Nicos Kessaris said: “This is a significant milestone for St George’s and the result of a team effort across the South West Thames Renal Transplant Network. Through using this technique we will be able to improve patient care by performing more transplants in the future.”

Renal consultant and medical director for Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, Dr Jonathan Kwan said: “This is fantastic news for renal patients in the area. Finding out that you need a kidney transplant is an incredibly daunting thing to face for anyone, so anything that can increase or speed up the number of transplants is a huge benefit to patients.”

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact the Communications Unit on 020 8725 5151 or email communications@stgeorges.nhs.uk. Outside working hours, please page us by calling 0844 822 2888, leaving a short message and contact details for pager SG548.

To contact the Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust communications team, call Oliver Wilkinson on 020 8296 2406 or email oliver.wilkinson@esth.nhs.uk.

The new technique (known as the ‘ABO blood group incompatible live kidney transplant’) works by reducing the amount of white blood cells the patient produces. White blood cells would normally evolve to produce antibodies which could harm and even reject the new kidney. The patient is given a special antibody called rituximab one month before transplantation, in order to reduce the white blood cell count.

In addition to that, in the week before transplantation, the patient has three or four dialysis-like sessions to remove antibodies which work against specific proteins in the blood.

Approximately 20 – 30 per cent of renal failure patients who are suitable for a live transplant (where the donor is still alive) could benefit from the new technique, meaning that patients who would have previously been turned down for a transplant are now able to undergo surgery.

The transplant operation itself is the same as in blood group compatible cases.