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Desensitization and Paired Donor Exchange Programs

What Is Sensitization?

The human body produces antibodies to fight infection. While useful for maintaining our general health, these antibodies can also increase the chance of rejection in a kidney transplant recipient. Most patients who develop these antibodies ('sensitized' patients) have had prior exposure to foreign human tissue in the form of a previous transplant, blood transfusion or pregnancy.

What Are the Options for Sensitized Patients?


It is believed that more than 25% of people currently on the kidney waiting list are sensitized. Patients who are sensitized tend to wait longer and often find it difficult, if not impossible, to get a kidney transplant either with a living donor or through the deceased donor waiting list. Desensitization, a technique using medications and a process similar to dialysis to filter out antibodies from the blood system, aims to remove the impeding antibodies to reduce the chances of rejection by the transplant recipient's body.

The Hume-Lee Transplant Center has been performing desensitization procedures for more than 12 years with an excellent track record of enhancing access to kidney transplantation. We have been able to facilitate transplantation in two-thirds of our sensitized patients, compared with a national average of successful transplantation in approximately one-third of the sensitized patient population. Research shows that these procedures are proven to prolong and improve a patient's quality of life.

Also, we have developed and studied a safe and effective protocol for the transplantation of HIV and hepatitis C infected kidneys, and Covid-19 kidneys, another method for expanding access to organs while also reducing waiting times.

Kidney Paired Exchange Donation

In some cases, desensitization is not an option because of the volume and strength of a person's antibodies. For these patients, Hume-Lee is pleased to offer kidney paired exchange.