Seikaly assists in first Albanian kidney transplant

By Erin Prather Stafford

Physicians from Albania, Austria, Turkey and the U.S. came together last year to save an Albanian teenager from death by renal failure, and one member of the team was a UT Southwestern physician.

Dr. Mouin Seikaly, professor of pediatrics and medical director of kidney transplant at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, traveled to Albania to assist with the country’s first kidney transplant.

  Dr. Mouin Seikaly

The surgery took place at the Balkan Alliance Medical Center in the Albanian capital, Tirana, and was the subject of an article by Dr. Seikaly in the journal Pediatric Transplantation.

“I was familiar with Albania because I had treated patients from there at Children’s,” Dr. Seikaly said. “A member of the Albanian government approached me about becoming part of an international transplant team. Many Albanians travel to other countries for transplant procedures because the capabilities are simply not there. Then after the launch of a cardiac surgery program, it was decided a kidney transplant program needed to be developed.”

Three patients between the ages of 16 and 22, all with end-stage renal disease, were selected to receive transplants from living donors. Although the handpicked individuals were deemed low-risk patients by their Albanian physicians, Dr. Seikaly noted that by U.S. standards they would be considered high-risk. The patients had severe uremia, anemia, hypertension and renal osteodystrophy, but none was on dialysis.

The first patient, a 16-year-old boy whose sister had died from renal failure, received a kidney from his mother.

The second patient also underwent a kidney transplant and was released from the hospital, while the third was found medically unsuitable for transplant at the time of surgery. Both patients who received transplants are healthy, an outcome Dr. Seikaly hopes more Albanian patients will experience.

“It was uplifting to see the extreme commitment our Albanian colleagues have for this transplant program,” he said. “I still keep in touch with them to know about the patients’ progress and their program’s developments. It’s imperative they capitalize on these successes to develop a solid transplant program for their country. This was one of the most rewarding endeavors I’ve done in my career.”

To thank Dr. Seikaly for his efforts, the Albanian prime minister, Dr. Sali Berisha, personally wrote to Dr. Seikaly to commend and thank him for his contribution. The letter is now framed and hangs in Dr. Seikaly’s academic office.