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SickKids program reaches milestone with 1,000 kidney transplants and counting
6 minute read

SickKids program reaches milestone with 1,000 kidney transplants and counting

Summary:

The Kidney Transplant Program has reached a significant milestone with its 1,000th paediatric kidney transplant performed at SickKids. Medical Director Dr. Chia Wei Teoh and Surgical Director Dr. Armando Lorenzo share their reflections on the continued medical advances of kidney transplantation over the years.

Medical Director Dr.Chia Wei Teoh and Surgical Director Dr. Armando Lorenzo

As we recognize World Kidney Day (March 11), the Kidney Transplant Program at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has reached another momentous milestone – our team has recently completed the 1,000th kidney transplant since the inception of the program in 1969!  

This achievement was made possible thanks to the generosity of the organ donors and their families. Kidneys are precious gifts, donated by families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, or offered by donors who have the altruistic goal of improving another person’s life. We are forever grateful for their generosity. 

For a child with kidney failure, their kidneys are no longer able to remove waste products from their bloods, which makes them feel unwell – they may have poor energy and appetite, and may have buildup of dangerous waste products in their blood. To help keep them safe from the harmful effects of the buildup of these waste products, they require strict fluid and dietary restrictions, and medications – and when these measures alone are no longer sufficient, they may require dialysis. All of this impacts on their growth and development. A kidney transplant is the best treatment we currently have. After a successful kidney transplant, their symptoms typically improve, their appetite increases, they are on fewer dietary restrictions, are more active and generally feel better. While they would still need to take different medications and follow up with their transplant team regularly, a kidney transplant gives them a chance to focus on their childhood and to achieve their own milestones! 

Our program has made several advances since the first transplant and has provided leadership in the field of paediatric transplantation. In 1969, our program pioneered the first paediatric kidney transplants in Canada and has since grown to become the largest paediatric kidney transplant program in the country, and among the largest in the world.  

We were among the first paediatric kidney transplant programs to routinely perform deceased donor kidney transplantation in children under five, and by 1988, published factors influencing graft survival in the first 300 transplants. In 2011, our program was the first in Canada to perform a living donor paired exchange paediatric kidney transplant – which was also our 800th kidney transplant. This represented a major advance in the ability to find a suitable donor for paediatric recipients who are highly sensitized and significantly improved their access to kidney transplantation.  

In 2019, our program successfully treated patients with post-transplant recurrence of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney condition that can lead to failure of the transplanted kidney, with low-density lipoprotein apheresis – another first in Canada – an advancement that would not be possible without the close collaboration with our dialysis/apheresis team. 

These are just some of the many achievements of our program from the first transplant to the 1,000th!

Hand drawing, as described in caption.
Original sketch by Dr. Armando Lorenzo, illustrating a transplant kidney connected to the recipient’s blood vessels and bladder.

The close collaboration between the Nephrology and Urology teams has been instrumental in generating great outcomes and aims to continually improve the care we provide to our patients every day.    

Integral to the team are all our physicians, surgeons, Nephrology and Urology residents and fellows, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, allied health professionals and the dialysis/apheresis team who have dedicated their professional lives to providing excellent care to all 1,000 (and counting) of our kidney transplant recipients, and all our administrative staff who help support the activities of the program in many ways.    

The strength of our program is its people – and if we've achieved this milestone (and many more in future), it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants, past and present. This achievement would not have been possible without their contributions! 

We feel privileged to be part of such an awesome team that goes above and beyond to provide our patients and families with the best possible care. While we celebrate this milestone as a team, we owe our utmost gratitude to all the organ donors and their families, who have generously provided the “gift of life” to our patients. We would also like to extend our gratitude to all our past and current patients and their families for placing their trust in the care that we provide, for their ongoing collaboration and for providing the inspiration and motivation for us to continually do better. 

Here's to many more kidney transplants to improve the lives of children with kidney failure and to help achieve SickKids’ vision, Healthier Children. A Better World. 

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