What You Should Know About Stony Brook’s Kidney Transplantation Program
Stony Brook’s Kidney Transplantation Program started in 1981. It is the oldest and most active renal transplant program on Long Island. Wayne C. Waltzer, MD, Director, Kidney Transplantation Services and Professor and Chair, Department of Urology, who has been part of the program from the beginning, has been instrumental in building it into the prestigious, accredited center it is today.
Are Long Island residents aware of this leading-edge program?
People who are experiencing kidney failure, also known as end-stage renal disease, are certainly in the know because we treat such a large number of cases. Most unaffected people, however, may not be aware that such an incredible resource exists in their own backyard. Stony Brook’s Kidney Transplantation Program has been in existence for nearly 30 years, has performed more than 1,300 transplants, and is in the top 20 percent of kidney transplant programs nationwide by patient volume. It has outcomes that are parallel with some of the best programs in the country.
What distinguishes the Stony Brook program?
Experience, expertise, and a long track record of success. People who have had a kidney transplant will need a lifetime of follow-up, so Stony Brook has assembled an excellent multidisciplinary team that meets the patient’s needs from pre-transplant assessment to decades-long follow-up. The team consists of transplant surgeons and nephrologists, in addition to transplant coordinators, physician assistants, clinical nurse managers, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, pharmacists and a number of administrative coordinators, who manage the process from the outset, handling everything from coordinating appointments to insurance approvals.
At Stony Brook, we work to bring patients the latest protocols to improve both their health and quality of life. For example, we have a steroid avoidance protocol in which no steroids — which are typically used as an anti-rejection measure — are used. While steroids are effective, they also have side effects that include infection, diabetes, bone loss and the typical face swelling and puffiness, which can affect a person’s appearance and have an impact on his or her self image. Instead, we are using the latest, very sophisticated immunosuppressive medications, which have been highly successful in preventing side effects in addition to rejection. Because Stony Brook is an academic medical center, we are continually involved in research on topics that can advance transplant medicine, including immunosuppressive protocols and medications to decrease rejection.
What’s changed with kidney transplantation since Stony Brook’s program started?
Just about everything. Technology and new classes of immunosuppressant medications have raised success rates and made living donation more feasible. The advent of laparoscopic surgery has allowed donors to more easily undergo the procedure and fully recover quickly. Things previously considered inconceivable, like the ability to transplant across the ABO blood group barrier or against a positive cross-match, can now be successfully achieved in select cases. People can live normal lives with a normal lifespan following a transplant, depending on their overall health and the absence of other serious illness. This includes eating a regular diet and having no restrictions on physical activity, with the exception of participating in contact sports. Although patients must remain on anti-rejection medications for the rest of their lives and have frequent follow-ups, their days of dialysis are behind them and they can return to full and active lives.
What can someone do for Donate Life Month?
The best thing you can do is to sign your New York State driver’s license indicating that you are an organ donor. People may wait years to receive a donor organ — at Stony Brook alone there are 350 people on the list — so each potential donor truly matters.
In addition, if you have a loved one or friend who needs a kidney, you may want to consider becoming a living donor. Know that you will be tested rigorously not only for compatibility but also to ensure that your body can withstand the surgery and make a full recovery. Very detailed long-term studies have shown that there is no increase in risk for kidney disease or complications in living donors. That said, in such transplant situations, the health and safety of the living donor is always the number one priority, ahead of the patient waiting to receive the kidney.
To learn more about Stony Brook’s Kidney Transplantation Program, call (631) 444-4000.
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