HOPKINS TRANSPLANT SURGEONS REMOVE HEALTHY KIDNEY THROUGH DONORíS VAGINA
- Minimally invasive organ removal could increase donations, surgeons say
February 2, 2009- In what is believed to be a first-ever procedure, surgeons at Johns Hopkins have successfully removed a healthy donor kidney through a small incision in the back of the donorís vagina.
ďThe kidney was successfully removed and transplanted into the donorís niece, and both patients are doing fine,Ē says Robert Montgomery, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the transplant division at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who led the team that performed the historic operation.
The transvaginal donor kidney extraction, performed Jan. 29 on a 48-year-old woman from Lexington Park, Md., eliminated the need for a 5-to-6-inch abdominal incision and left only three pea-size scars on her abdomen, one of which is hidden in her navel.
Transvaginal kidney removals have been done previously to remove cancerous or nonfunctioning kidneys that endanger a patientís health, but not for healthy kidney donation. Because transplant donor nephrectomies are the most common kidney removal surgery ó 6,000 a year just in the United States ó this approach could have a tremendous impact on peopleís willingness to donate by offering more surgical options,Ē says Montgomery.
ďSince the first laparoscopic donor nephrectomy was performed at Johns Hopkins in 1995, surgeons have been troubled by the need to make a relatively large incision in the patientís abdomen after completing the nephrectomy to extract the donor kidney. ďThat incision is thought to significantly add to the patientís pain, hospitalization and convalescence,Ē says Montgomery. ďRemoving the kidney through a natural opening should hasten the patientís recovery and provide a better cosmetic result.Ē
Both laparoscopies and transvaginal operations are enabled by wandlike cameras and tools inserted through small incisions. In the transvaginal nephrectomy, two wandlike tools pass through small incisions in the abdomen and a third flexible tool housing a camera is placed in the navel.
Video images displayed on monitors guide surgeonsí movements. Once the kidney is cut from its attachments to the abdominal wall and arteries and veins are stapled shut, surgeons place the kidney in a plastic bag inserted through an incision in the vaginal wall and pull it out through the vaginal opening with a string attached to the bag.
Montgomery says the surgery took about three and a half hours, roughly the same as a traditional laparoscopic procedure.
The Jan. 29 operation is one of a family of new surgical procedures called natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgeries (NOTES) that use a natural body opening to remove organs and tissue, according to Anthony Kalloo, M.D., the director of the Division of Gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the pioneer of NOTES. The most common openings used are the mouth, anus and vagina.
Since 2004, successful NOTES in humans have removed diseased gallbladders and appendixes through the mouth, and gallbladders, kidneys and appendixes through the vagina.
Recently, Kalloo says, some medical experts have called for more studies to compare the safety and effectiveness of NOTES against traditional laparoscopies, which also leave very small scars, have been in use for many years, and are proven to be safer and less painful for patients than older ďopenĒ abdominal procedures. He supports more studies.
But, he adds, ďnatural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery is the final frontier to explore in making surgery scarless, less painful and for obese patients, much safer.Ē An organ donor, in particular, is most deserving of a scar-free, minimally invasive and pain-free procedure.Ē
Additional surgeons from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who participated in the procedure were Mohamad E. Allaf, M.D., assistant professor in the departments of Urology and Biomedical Engineering and director of minimally invasive and robotic surgery; Andy Singer, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Transplant Surgery; and Wen Shen, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics.