According to a 2008 study by the University of Michigan, as more Americans have organ transplants, the total number of retransplant patients has steadily risen. However, the percentage of patients waiting for their second transplant has remained steady, at about 11 -13 percent.
The largest number of retransplants are kidney patients. One reason is that kidney transplants are far and away the most common transplant operation. And if a transplanted kidney fails, patients have dialysis to fall back on. Mechanical support systems for other organs aren’t as successful or accessible.
There are a few reasons that someone can need a second transplant. The most common is organ rejection. Although anti-rejection therapy is constantly advancing and individual immune suppressant regimens can be fine-tuned, patients can still develop rejection at any time.
This is especially true of lung transplant patients. In fact, almost half of all lung transplant patients develop chronic rejection about five years after their transplant. Unless this rejection is controlled or stabilized with medication or photopheresis therapy, the patients may find themselves with no other option but to have a second transplant.
Unfortunately, the statistics show that except for second kidney transplants, the survival rates for second transplants of other organs are worse than for first transplants.
The choice whether to try for a second transplant is a highly personal one. Some patients decide not to embark on a second transplant journey. Others, like Tom Nate, whose story we shared recently, feel strongly about trying for another transplant. Patients are encouraged to make the choice that’s right for them.
Here’s the story of a Columbus, OH, woman who has also decided to take another chance: