How Six Healthy Kidneys Saved 140 Lives

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Every year, 4,500 Americans die waiting for a kidney transplant — but that’s not always due to a lack of willing donors.

In fact, many people in need of a kidney have family members or friends who want to donate. The problem is that you can’t accept a kidney from just anybody: Donors and recipients need to go through a series of medical tests to determine whether they’re a good match and whether the transplant will be successful.

So what happens when you’ve got a willing donor, but he or she isn’t an acceptable match? That’s where kidney transplant chains come in.

Hospitals and transplant centers (often with the help of donor databases like the National Kidney Registry ) can link up several non-matching pairs of patients and willing donors, then shuffle around the available kidneys so that all the recipients end up with the organ that’s the best fit for them, regardless of their relationship with the donor.

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