Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program Achieves Record Number of Transplants; Improves Donor Patient Care through Robotic Expertise

Lauren Hooker
January 30, 2023
Dr. Tracy Rice, MD

In 2022, the MUSC Health Living Donor Program celebrated the highest number of living donor kidney transplants in the program’s history, with 57 successful transplants. “There are more than 100,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant, and they will be waiting an average of five years,” said Tracy Rice, Surgical Director of the Living Donor Program. “The number of kidneys available from deceased donors isn’t enough to meet this demand, and thousands of people die each year waiting for an organ to become available. That’s the main reason why growing our Living Donor Program is so important, and I’m proud of our team for achieving this milestone.” 

The benefits of living donation are it minimizes a patient’s time on dialysis, improving their quality of life. More importantly, it reduces their overall mortality while waiting for an organ to become available. Additionally, a living donor kidney is the “gold standard” for kidney donation; in fact, the living donor organ lasts twice as long as a deceased donor kidney and they have better outcomes. And ultimately, through living donation, more lives are saved, with deceased donor organs going to people who cannot find a living donor.

Living donor transplant provides better outcomes for the recipient; equally important, it is safe for the donor. The living donor program is committed to providing exceptional care to the donor. The donor’s health and safety are of utmost importance. The donor goes through education and completes screening and medical evaluation to ensure that the donor will not be at risk of developing kidney failure in the future. In fact, living donors have slightly higher survival than the general public. Almost any healthy adult can be considered for living kidney donation. To maximize every living donation and help as many people as possible, MUSC participates in internal and several national paired donation programs using advanced software.

In addition to growing the living donor program, Dr. Rice is exceedingly well trained with a unique skill set in robotic donor nephrectomy. With her expertise, the living donor program has converted to a fully robotic donor practice, performing 44 robotic nephrectomies in 2022.

Dr. Rice says there are many benefits to the living donor when the nephrectomy is done robotically, including reduced hospital stays, less pain, and fewer complications. “Over 90% of our patients are going home the day after surgery,” said Dr. Rice. “And, their pain requirements postoperatively are about half what they are with a laparoscopic approach. Considering these patients have given such a tremendous gift – the gift of life – I think it’s pretty significant that we can offer them a more comfortable recovery by virtue of the surgery completed using the Da Vinci Surgical System.”

The Da Vinci Surgical System allows for a three-dimensional view, ten times magnification, improved visibility, greater wrist articulation, and less torque at the surgical site incisions, which all translate into better surgical outcomes with less post-surgical pain. “And so ultimately, if they have less pain, they feel more comfortable and are ready to go home,” said Dr. Rice. “And that’s very rewarding to offer that option for someone who has given so much of themselves to save another person’s life.”

According to Dr. Rice, the program's success is a result of a talented multidisciplinary team, institutional support, and strong community partners. "From our hospital administration who have supported our growth in the robotics program, our Intuitive representatives, our OR staff who work every week to make sure they are successful, and our living donor team of nurses and coordinators who help facilitate these surgeries, it truly is a dedicated team effort," said Dr. Rice."Of course, we couldn't do such remarkable work without the most important people - our donors who choose to give the gift of life!"

You can truly change someone’s life by donating a liver or kidney. If you’re interested in learning more or beginning the organ donation process, please get in touch with MUSC Health’s Living Donor Program at 843-792-5097. For more information, please visit our website: