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    National Kidney Month: WRNMMC’s kidney transplant program ranks as 5-star

    National Kidney Month: WRNMMC’s kidney transplant program ranks as 5-star

    Courtesy Photo | Army Col. (Dr.) Jason Hawksworth, a transplant surgeon at Walter Reed National...... read more read more

    By Bernard S. Little
    WRNMMC Command Communications
    Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is the only Department of Defense military medical treatment facility (MTF) that performs kidney transplants, and the Organ Transplant Service at WRNMMC has been rated as one of the top transplant programs in the nation.
    According to data published by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), which supports the transplant community with analyses to better patient experiences and outcomes, WRNMMC’s Organ Transplant Service is ranked in the top tier of all U.S. transplant programs and has a 97 percent one-year patient and graft survival rate.
    “Military Health System (MHS) beneficiaries – active duty, family members, and veterans are eligible for transplant at WRNMMC. They can either be referred [to us] by their nephrologist, or self-refer directly to the WRNMMC Transplant Department,” said Sharriff McGee, a registered nurse and program director for the Organ Transplant Service at WRNMMC.
    The service performs approximately 50 kidney transplants annually, according to McGee, and kidneys for transplants are received from both living and deceased donors.
    “To date, we have performed 56 kidney transplants which includes 16 living donor kidney transplants. Despite the significant challenges of the COVID Pandemic, our one-year transplant survival of 97 percent remains the highest in the region, even when risk-adjusted. We continue to have better risk-adjusted kidney transplant survival than the other local transplant programs,” McGee added.
    “In addition, we were the first transplant program in the Mid-Atlantic to perform fully robotic living donor nephrectomies. Currently, we have the most robotic surgery experience in the region, with over 50 robotic living donor surgeries and 10 fully robotic deceased donor kidney recipients,” McGee continued.
    In addition to its one-year 97 percent survival rates, WRNMMC’s Transplant Service team also has a 96 percent three-year survival rate, which ranks WRNMMC as a 5-STAR program by the SRTR.
    Despite their rating, McGee said their department’s biggest challenge is getting the word out about their service to eligible beneficiaries.
    “Our program has so much to offer and the capacity to double our yearly transplants if MTFs were aware of our program,” McGee explained.
    McGee added WRNMMC’s Transplant Service has “a robust living donor kidney program that participates in the National Kidney Registry (NKR) kidney exchange program which creates more transplant opportunities for our patients.” If a patient has a donor who may not be compatible with him or her, the name of the patient is placed in a national kidney pool to get a compatible donor. The donor’s name is also placed in the pool as a possible donor for a potential recipient elsewhere.
    WRNMMC’s transplant program includes a multi-disciplinary approach and follows post-transplant patients progressively over their lifetime, and very closely for the first year, according to Army Col. (Dr.) Jason Hawksworth, transplant surgeon at WRNMMC. Those participating in the program include physicians, nurses, transplant coordinators, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers and dietitians, who work together to address not only medical issues, but also psychosocial and emotional needs of patients and their families.
    “We started robotic surgery for kidney transplants in 2018,” McGee added. In 2019, the WRNMMC Organ Transplant Service performed the first fully robotic living donor nephrectomy surgery in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore region. The robotic technology enables a safer surgery for living donors, as well as faster recovery and return-to-work time frames, according to Hawksworth. The technology has enhanced the ability to perform minimally invasive surgery for transplants, he added.
    “Over the past year we also expanded our telehealth capabilities,” McGee also shared. “Our multidisciplinary transplant team members are evaluating and listing patients with our center completely virtually. Patients within MTFs that have Tricare insurance can be referred to our center for kidney transplant evaluations. Additionally, VA patients can be referred to our center through the Mission Act.”
    March is National Kidney Month, and according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a private, nonprofit agency that works with the federal government to improve transplants, there are approximately 92,000 people awaiting a kidney on the national transplant waiting list. In addition, about 660,000 people live with kidney failure, 37 million people have chronic kidney disease, and one in three Americans are at-risk for kidney disease. The median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is about three-and-a-half years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and the availability of organs.
    The kidneys perform various functions, including removing waste products from the body, balancing the body's fluids, releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure, producing an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones, and controlling the production of red blood cells. Kidney disease can affect one or both kidneys, and if the kidney’s ability to filter the blood is seriously damaged by disease, then waste and excess fluid may build up in the body.
    National Kidney Month is observed to raise awareness about the importance of the kidneys and encourage people to find out early if they have kidney disease. Though many forms of kidney disease do not produce symptoms until late in the course of the disease, there are warning signs of kidney disease, including high blood pressure, puffiness around eyes, swelling of hands and feet, blood and/or protein in the urine, and more frequent urination, particularly at night, and difficult or painful urination.
    Preventing chronic kidney disease (CKD) and its complications is possible by managing risk factors and treating the disease to slow its progression and reduce the risk of complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    April is also National Donate Life Month, a time for all Americans to celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye, tissue, marrow, and blood donors - and to encourage more Americans to follow their example.
    For more information about the WRNMMC Organ Transplant Program, visit or call 301-295-4331 to speak with a transplant coordinator.
    For more information about the prevention and management of CKD, visit


    Date Taken: 03.22.2023
    Date Posted: 03.22.2023 12:04
    Story ID: 440933
    Location: US

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