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February 08, 2013

Single-Incision Kidney Removal Performed at Rush, One of Five Sites in the Country to Offer a Novel Approach for Live Kidney Donors

(Chicago) – Surgeons at Rush University Medical Center have removed the kidney from a living-donor using a single incision in the navel, introducing to Illinois a cutting-edge surgical technique that can motivate more individuals to donate organs. The operation was performed on January 30, and both donor (daughter) and recipient (mother) have recovered and are home.

Called single-incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS), the approach provides the donors with an excellent cosmetic result, essentially a scar-less operation, according Dr. Sameh A. Fayek, a transplant surgeon at Rush. Only a small band aid is needed to cover the navel early after surgery.

“By having only a single incision, discomfort and pain is minimized for donors and patients recovery more swiftly,” he said. “This incision is actually hidden at the belly-button, thus donors are left with essentially no visible scars.”

“We’re hoping this will help encourage increased numbers of live-kidney donations,” said Fayek. In addition, the SILS approach could potentially help decrease the length of stay in a hospital and expedite the recovery.

Since 1996, the conventional approach for removal of donor kidneys requires three or four small incisions for instruments and a camera, and a four-inch incision to remove the kidney using standard laparoscopy.

In the new SILS approach, instead of making incisions in the donor's abdomen, the surgeon makes a single incision in the navel where a specially designed port is inserted to accommodate all of the necessary instruments. A camera and two or three laparoscopic instruments are used to separate the kidney which is safely removed through the same opening.

“Donating a kidney is a very selfless act and this single-incision option aims to improve donor satisfaction and feeling towards the overall donation process,” said Fayek. The recipients as well are pleased that their donors are getting the most advanced surgery with minimal scar, he noted. Living donors are evaluated before donating a kidney for their own health and safety. The evaluation process helps to decrease risk for the donor.

Living-donor kidney transplantations are the best option for patients with renal failure. The kidneys from living donors work immediately and have best long term outcome with median survival of more than 10 years.  “Recipients of kidney transplants have improved survival (longer life) and better quality of life compared to other patients who stay on dialysis,” Fayek said. “While this is a relatively safe procedure, all surgeries come with some risk. The decision to donate should not be taken lightly,” he adds.

Those who receive a donation from a living family member or friend do not have to wait for years on waiting list. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), approximately 117,000 people in the United States are currently on the transplant waiting list.

“Every year the gap between patients waiting for a kidney on the list (currently more than 90,000 patients) and transplants performed (18,000/ year) widens. We hope that this new technique motivates more healthy people to consider living donation,” said Fayek.

More information about the living kidney donation program at Rush is available at



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