The Best Gift: Six-Person Paired Kidney Transplant

Transplant recipients, donors and family talk about the miracle of a six-person paired kidney transplant -- known colloquially as a "kidney swap." The operation took place in Atlanta and involved Emory Healthcare and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

About Paired Kidney Transplant

The Emory Transplant Center created and opened its innovative Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program in 2009, providing greater hope for patients in need of kidney transplants. According to Kenneth Newell, MD, director of Emory’s living donor program, a paired exchange donation allows healthy individuals to donate a kidney to either a friend, loved one, or even altruistically to a stranger, despite incompatible blood matches. In paired donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs.

The procedure is another form of living donor transplantation. Donated kidneys also come from recently deceased donors. While most kidneys from deceased donors function well, studies have shown that a kidney from a living donor, either a blood relative or an unrelated person, provides the greatest chance for long-term success.

“Paired donor exchanges allow us to cast a much wider net to find compatible donors and recipients,” says Newell. “With a paired kidney transplant, one incompatible donor-pair is able to give a healthy kidney to a compatible recipient. In exchange, the second donor-recipient pair will give a compatible kidney to the first donor-recipient pair, making two compatible living donor transplants possible and increasing the potential number of available donor kidneys. This option can help those patients waiting for kidney transplants who have family members or friends willing to be donors and who are medically suitable, but who have an ABO blood type that is incompatible with the recipient’s blood type.”

For Donors

The generous act of donating a kidney can be an incredible and rewarding experience for everyone involved. Kidney transplantation can improve the length and quality of the recipient's life and strengthen the feeling of closeness between the recipient and the donor. Donation is an important decision, which involves potential benefits and risks.

The Emory transplant team will evaluate each potential donor very carefully. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your Emory transplant coordinator at 404-727-3250 or toll free 1-866-727-3250. Additional information regarding transplantation can be found at

The Emory Healthcare web site provides info to help you understand Emory's living donor process.