Penn Medicine recently opened a new Center for Living Donation to strengthen collaboration between Penn’s kidney, liver, and uterus transplant services.
The Living Donor Center, which opened in December, is a combination of the previous Living Kidney Donor Program, Live Liver Donor Program, and Uterine Transplantation Program. The center was established to raise awareness of living organ donation, reduce waiting times for kidney and liver transplants, and facilitate the organ donation process.
Therese Bittermann, medical director of the Living Liver Donor Program, said cross-departmental cooperation has increased efficiency for all involved.
“As we established the center, our programs became more aligned, so we realized that we could learn from each other,” Bittermann said. “We always joke that living liver donation is about 10-15 years behind living kidney donation. We were able to adjust our policy.”
Amanda Leonberg-Yoo, Medical Director of the Living Kidney Donor Program, emphasized the importance of Living Kidney Donor Centers in recognizing different treatment needs.
“This demonstrates that individuals interested in living organ donation are distinct from the general population,” said Leonberg-Yoo. “These people do not need to come forward and seek medical care, so they recognize that care needs to be delivered in a different way to create a convenient and easy process for individuals.”
Living organ donations allow patients to receive transplants and related benefits more quickly, according to Penn Medicine. Organs from living donors are activated and patients feel better in no time. These live donations allow patients to plan ahead. Due to the pre-scheduled dates of surgery, the need for dialysis and other short-term treatments can be limited.
Also, organ donations from living donors last longer than organ donations from deceased donors. According to Leonberg-Yoo, live kidney donations tend to last him 15 to 20 years, while cadaver kidney donations last him 10 to 15 years on average.
Living Kidney Donor Program Coordinator Ashley Aloba suggests that living kidney transplants are growing in popularity.
“When I started [at Penn], I remember asking my supervisor, “Is this a secret?” Is there a reason people don’t know about living donations? And now, in the world of transplants, it feels like all eyes are on living donors,” Arova said.
Leonberg-Yoo said Penn is “very supportive” of the center’s new initiative, citing how living organ donation can benefit patients.
By joining forces at the Center for Living Donation, kidney and liver programs received additional resources. This includes funding for medical assistant staff, intake coordinators, and patient navigators.
Bittermann said the biggest problem with living implants is the lack of awareness of them as an option. Leonberg-Yoo agreed with Bittermann.
Leonberg-Yoo added that in the future, he hopes to treat more living donors than dead donors.
“There are more than 90,000 people waiting for kidney transplants in the United States,” Leonberg Yu said. Individuals must donate kidneys.”
Leonberg-Yoo also said the Center for Living Donation could become more embedded in the University City community in the future by working with dialysis unit-led outreach initiatives and community leaders to raise awareness. suggested that there is
Aloba hopes the Center for Living Donation will be able to perform 200 living donor transplants annually within the next five years. This is up from 101 living donor transplants performed in 2022 and 89 living donor transplants performed in 2021.
“My pitch to the Penn community is to ask about living donations,” Arova said. As more people grow, they will explore what it means to be a living donor.”