Surgeons at UC Davis Transplant Center reached a major milestone Wednesday night, when they completed the center's 4,000th kidney transplant.
Their patient, Pedro Chavez of Hanford, Calif., is doing well after receiving a kidney from a deceased donor and is expected to be released from the hospital early next week. The 48-year-old has Berger’s disease, or IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune condition that causes kidney-damaging inflammation.
UC Davis’ kidney transplant program was launched in 1985 and completed a handful of transplants that first year. Today, it is one of the higher-volume programs in the nation, performing between 268 and 402 adult and pediatric transplants each year since 2011. Outcomes for UC Davis kidney transplant patients also have consistently exceeded the national average.
Richard Perez, chief of transplant surgery, said UC Davis Health made the decision to prioritize the kidney transplant program given the growing number of patients like Chavez with end-stage renal disease, which is often linked with diabetes or hypertension and fatal without treatment.
While regular dialysis helps, Perez explained that transplantation is more effective because it restores kidney function and may prolong life. Currently, however, there are more than 100,000 people are on kidney transplant waitlists but only about 17,000 kidney transplant surgeries in the U.S. each year.
UC Davis is working hard to close that gap.
“Our phenomenal team has done everything they can to make transplantation a reality for as many patients as possible,” Perez added. “The growing number of people on kidney transplant waitlists is top-of-mind in all that they do.”
Perez and his team acquire many difficult-to-transplant kidneys that other centers lack the expertise to use. A comprehensive assessment process ― including onsite biopsies, the use of cold pulsatile perfusion technology and optimized donor-recipient matching ― has increased the utilization of these organs. A high level of experience with complex surgeries, including those that involve kidneys from pediatric donors, has also contributed to the transplant program’s growth.
Chavez’s surgeon, C.S. Krishnan, said UC Davis’ leadership in his field is the reason he’s here.
“Our goal is to help make transplants more accessible,” said Krishnan, who completed his general surgery residency at UC Davis before completing a transplant fellowship in Wisconsin. “That dedication to patients is what brought me back.”
Given the health system’s success with kidney transplants, Perez would like to see the program expand to include other organs.
“It’s all about supporting the community,” Perez said. “Our ultimate goal is to make sure no one in Sacramento and the Central Valley who needs an organ transplant has to travel too far to get one.”
More information about UC Davis Health, including its transplant center and how to become an organ donor, is at transplant.ucdavis.edu.