About 10,000 kidney transplants have been done in the

United States so far.  How long should a donated kidney,

cadaveric or from live donor, last?


     In 1998, the best average, from a living related donor,

was 17 years, according to government statistics.  The

typical cadaveric kidney, from a dead donor, lasted about 11

years.  But a study, led by Dr. Sundaram Hariharan, at

Medical College of Wisconsin, has found major improvement

where it matters, in "graft survival," the amount of time

the new organ works in the recipient's body. 


     This study, published February in the New England

Journal of Medicine, states that a kidney transplant, from a

living related donor, that once might last 17 years, has

more than doubled its "life expectancy," to 36 years.  A

similar transplant, but from a cadaveric donor, now lasts an

average of 20 years.


     What has changed?  Once the surgical techniques of

transplantation were mastered, the biggest problem has been

rejection, the body's attempt to destroy invading tissues.

"Anti‑rejection drugs," necessary to keep the organ alive in

the face of the body's attempt to reject it as "foreign,"

have been coarse, powerful, and fraught with side effects.

But they are getting better, and as they do, transplants

last longer.


     Over all, the results "show a continuous trend toward

improved long‑term graft survival in recent years," the

researchers said; and, "The survival rate for someone who

receives a transplant today is probably even better."