UCSF has shut down its live donor program after someone died from a routine kidney transplant operation.
An individual who hoped to save the life of someone who needed a kidney sacrificed his own in a freak incident that highlights the dangers of even routine surgeries due to the risks of anesthesia.
The living donor program at the University of California San Francisco has been voluntarily shut down as officials attempt to get to the bottom of an October incident where a donor died after donating a kidney, as we recently reported. The recipient of the kidney recovered fine.
The incident is certainly unusual, but it highlights the risks everyone takes when undergoing surgery, even a routine one. At the heart of the risk is the process of anesthesia, or putting a person in a coma so that they do not experience the surgery itself — a miracle of modern medicine, but also a risk of sudden death.
The reality is that kidney donors don’t have much to worry about — despite the most recent incident, there is a 0.03 percent chance of dying from the procedure, and UCSF has run 150 live donor operations every year before the incident occurred.
But anesthesia is a risk that has been rising in recent years. After plummeting from a rate of 640 deaths per million patients in the 1940s to four per million by the end of the 1980s, it’s jumped to seven per million. Part of that is because of a rising age in patients being operated on.
But people should be aware of the risk they take. If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, you stand a greater chance of dying from anesthesia while in surgery. Obesity is also a factor, as it can be difficult to determine the right level of drugs for someone who is overweight.
The process is so delicate it requires a highly trained anesthetist to monitor and regulate the breathing and circulation during the surgery.