It was love that prompted Nashik resident Meera Dhikale to donate one of her kidneys to her husband Fakira, but in the process the couple may well have written a fresh chapter in the country's organ transplant medicine.
The transplant, conducted on September 2, had two noteworthy features: one, it was performed between persons with incompatible blood groups, and two, it was done without the mandatory removal of the recipient's spleen. "Earlier when we did such incompatible surgeries, it involved two major operations in the same session: the transplant itself and the splenectomy," said Dr Bhupendra Gandhi, nephrologist with Jaslok Hospital, the only centre in the country to have performed 25 such transplants in the last seven years.
"In Fakira's case, for the first time in this country we used a drug called Rituximab to reduce the antibodies in his blood in place of the splenectomy. Thus we reduced the chances of Meera's donated kidney being rejected by Fakira's body."
This could be a way to increase the organ donor pool. India adds almost 1 lakh patients of chronic kidney disease every year, but there is a dearth of donors.
Such incompatible blood group donation — called ABO incompatible transplants — could just be the way forward even though some doctors point out that it has higher rejection rates than the matched transplant procedure and is more expensive. Mumbai's Jaslok Hospital and CMC Hospital in Vellore are the only centres in the country to do these transplants.
Incompatible transplants are not new; Jaslok itself performed the first such transplant seven years ago. In 2006, Vikas R's wife donated a kidney to him and he is doing well. "We had no one else among our blood relations who could donate a kidney to me. So we decided to go ahead with this new procedure," said Vikas (name changed), who is also Dr Gandhi's patient. Dr Sandeep Guleria AIIMS nephrologist, said, "ABO Incompatible transplants are a good way of increasing the donor pool, and procedure is not medically difficult."