UBC Reports | Vol. 46 | No. 15 | October 05, 2000
New procedure a cut above
Technique makes kidney donors' lives easier, say transplant surgeons
by Hilary Thomson staff writer
The surgical invasion associated with kidney donation will be sharply
reduced thanks to a new procedure being launched in B.C. by two
UBC transplant surgeons.
"We hope to attract more donors with this less invasive technique," says Dr.
Mark Meloche, an associate professor of Surgery.
"It should be easier for people to donate because the whole process is less
taxing on the body and allows people to get back to their activities sooner,"
adds Meloche, who is head of Surgery for the British Columbia Transplant
When he and clinical associate professor of Surgery Dr. Mark Nigro bring
the procedure to the UBC site of Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences
Centre (VHHSC) next year, it will be one of the first facilities in
Canada to use the new transplant method.
Called minimally invasive surgery, the procedure uses a laparoscope -- a
tube attached to a 10-millimetre-wide camera -- and tiny instruments inserted
into small incisions to extract the kidney. Most donors are able to return to
activities in about two weeks -- one-third to one-quarter the previous recovery
Nigro, a director of renal transplant surgery at VHHSCand head of
Retrieval Services for BCTSreports that his first minimal access
patient was able to leave hospital to play in a championship pool game 36 hours
The standard procedure for kidney removal, or nephrectomy, requires a 15-20
centimetre lateral incision in the flank that cuts through muscle. It requires
about four to six days recovery in hospital and six to eight weeks at home.
In the new procedure, the surgeon makes several vertical incisions about 10
millimetres in length above the navel without cutting into muscle.
The laparascope with its tiny camera is inserted and an image of the interior
of the surgical site is shown on a high-resolution screen. Small instruments
and stapling devices are inserted into the incisions and are operated remotely
from outside the body.
The kidney is drawn out in an operation that takes about three to 3-1/2 hours,
about one hour longer than the standard procedure.
The project will yield clinical, research and teaching benefits, says Nigro. He
credits VHHSC for its support in providing equipment for the
Within the next six months, he and Meloche will be training residents in the
technique which was developed in a Baltimore, Md. hospital about three years