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Transplant programmes examining ways to expand donor pool

By Catherine Reilly - 06th May 2022

Transplant programmes in Ireland are looking to implement measures to expand the organ donor pool, according to Dr Emer Joyce, Transplant Cardiologist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin. 

Dr Joyce and Dr Zita Galvin, Transplant Hepatologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH), Dublin, were speaking to the Medical Independent as part of the recent Organ Donor Awareness Week. They were members of the medical team caring for Mr Martin Malinowski from Co Monaghan, who was the first person in Ireland to receive a combined heart and liver transplant. 

Dr Galvin said that globally there is “much more demand for organs than there is supply, unfortunately. There are so many indications for organ transplantation and those indications are only increasing.” She emphasised the importance of people sharing their wishes on organ donation with family and friends. 

The national kidney transplant programme has developed information materials on different deceased donor types and state that patients may be asked to consider a transplant from an extended criteria donor in order to improve the likelihood of transplantation. 

Asked whether other transplant programmes were examining this area, Dr Joyce said “that is definitely something we are looking at…. We are keeping up with international trends, with procedures and protocols that are evolving worldwide, particularly in the US and UK”. 

“I think it is a positive point to say that, as transplant programmes, we are looking to implement measures that allow expansion of the organ donor pool.” 

Dr Joyce and Dr Galvin also underlined the importance of resourcing for all stages of the donation, transplant and post-transplant process. 

Dr Joyce also noted the need for national IT infrastructure for the area. 

She said more resourcing was required for additional personnel, equipment, beds and day wards, and for the entire process from pre-donation to perioperative and postoperative and follow-up care. 

“We don’t want to run to stand still, we want to always be evolving in transplant medicine and following along with international standards.” 

Speaking on the “ground-breaking achievement” of the dual heart and liver transplant, Dr Galvin noted the “fantastic teamwork” by the multidisciplinary team across the hospitals. 

Dr Joyce said a heart and liver transplant is “a major undertaking for a transplant team and it is an extremely rare procedure, with around 200 ever taking place in the US, and much smaller numbers worldwide”. 

The surgery began with Mr Jonathan McGuinness and his team at the Mater performing the heart transplant, followed by Mr Justin Geoghegan of SVUH transplanting the liver from the same donor. Multiple healthcare professionals, including surgical, anaesthesiology, intensivist, medical, nursing, laboratory and transplant coordinator personnel from both hospitals were involved in Mr Malinowski’s care.

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