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Kidney donor at UPMC passes virus (HCV) on
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
by Luis Fabregas
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is investigating a case in which an adult living donor transmitted the Hepatitis C virus to a kidney transplant recipient at UPMC, a health department spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
UPMC officials refused to comment on the case, which prompted hospital administrators to temporarily shut down its adult living-donor kidney transplant program.
"We are aware there was a case of Hepatitis C reported surrounding the kidney transplant program" at UPMC, said Yasmin Coleman, spokeswoman at the Department of Health. "It is under investigation. We can't say anything else."
Hepatitis C virus spreads through infected blood or tissue, said Dr. Ron Voorhees, chief of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Allegheny County Health Department. The infection can lead to inflammation of the liver and liver cancer, but there are treatments to help the body get rid of the virus, he said. The Tribune-Review first reported the UPMC program's suspension on Monday. UPMC officials have said the suspension was voluntary.
UPMC spokeswoman Jennifer Yates cited federal privacy rules yesterday when asked about the Hepatitis C case and would not answer questions about UPMC's donor screening process.
"Because of HIPAA, we can't comment on any patient outcomes or diagnoses," Yates said, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
Potential kidney donors at UPMC undergo extensive evaluation that includes blood tests, CT scans, echocardiograms, pulmonary function tests and a psychiatric evaluation, according to the UPMC website. The blood tests help determine whether the potential donor has any transmissible diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, any underlying kidney diseases or any serious medical condition, the website said.
When the tests are completed, the donor's information is reviewed by a transplant committee. The committee includes surgeons, transplant nephrologists and nurse coordinators, and other specialists. The evaluation can take up to four weeks.
About 40 percent of UPMC's kidney transplant cases involved the use of live donors in 2010, when surgeons performed 62 kidney transplants with live donors and 90 transplants with deceased donors. The 152 total kidney transplants at UPMC last year was the lowest number since 150 transplants in 2001, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Yates repeated UPMC's expectation that it will soon reopen the living-donor kidney program, but could not provide a specific time frame.
Voorhees said county health officials had not been notified of any transplant-related Hepatitis C incidents at UPMC. He said Hepatitis C transmission in transplantation is unusual because there is a screening process designed to safeguard that the donor's blood has been checked for infectious diseases.
"There are screening procedures that are established, so we don't hear about it very often," he said.
There were a total of 684 Hepatitis C infections reported in Allegheny County in 2010. A total of 165 cases were reported in the county through April of this year, said department spokesman Guillermo Cole.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this week began a scheduled review of UPMC's organ transplant program. A spokesman declined comment yesterday.
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