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WRNMMC’s kidney transplant program ranked as 5-star

Military medical personnel in an operating room, wearing full PPE A team of surgeons from Walter Reed National Military Medical (WRNMMC) performs the first fully robotic living donor nephrectomy surgery in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore region in 2019. The robotic technology enables a safer surgery for living donors, as well as faster recovery and return to work timeframe, according to surgeons. In addition to the best kidney transplant outcomes in the region, WRNMMC is also at the forefront of transplant surgical innovation, according to Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jason Hawksworth, Transplant Surgeon and Chief of Transplant at WRNMMC. (Photo by Bernard Little, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.)

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The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland has the best organ transplant outcomes in the greater District, Maryland and Virginia region, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR), an agency that tracks transplant programs outcomes.

The SRTR provides statistical and other analytic support to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) for purposes including the formulation and evaluation of organ allocation and other OPTN policies.

“We provide kidney transplant for all TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries,” stated Sharriff McGee, a registered nurse and program director, WRNMMC Organ Transplant.

WRNMMC is not the only kidney transplant program in the Department of Defense’s Military Health System (MHS), but also highly-rated. “We perform approximately 50 kidney transplants yearly and we are considered a 5-STAR program according the newly released risk adjusted SRTR patient outcomes data,” continued McGee.

Additionally, we have 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.

WRNMMC 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 Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jason Hawksworth, transplant surgeon and chief of transplant 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 complex medical issues, but also psychosocial and emotional needs of patients and their families.

According to the SRTR report released in January 2021, WRNMMC’s patient and graft survival is 99% for estimated and expected probability of surviving with a functioning graft at one year. Additionally, the wait-time to receive kidney transplant at WRNMMC is shorter than the national average, McGee added.

In 2019, 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.

This month has served as National Kidney Month and according to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant; approximately 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 serve as powerful chemical factories that 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 of both kidneys, and if the kidney’s ability to filter the blood is seriously damaged by disease, wastes and excess fluid may build up in the body.

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).

WRNMMC Organ Transplant department is eager and excited to offer kidney transplant services to our active duty, dependents, and veterans. To learn more, visit the WRNMMC’s Kidney Transplant Program’s website; or call 301-295-4331 to speak with a transplant coordinator.

For more information about kidney disease, visit the CDC website.

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