Doctors have carried out the first ?paired swap? of kidneys in the UK between two couples, in a step hailed Thursday as opening a ?new era? in organ transplants here.
The ?pairing? scheme, pioneered in the Netherlands and the United States but only authorised in Britain since 2006, brings together couples formed of one patient in need of a kidney transplant and their partner, willing to donate but medically incompatible with them.
The two couple?s healthy partners then agree to donate their kidneys to the other person?s ailing partner, in a carefully arranged ?swap?, watched over by the new regulatory body for organ transplants, the Human Tissue Authority.
In the first operations since the practice was authorised in 2006, Roma Horrell, 57, from Cambridgeshire, received a healthy kidney from a Scottish woman, in July, while Mrs Horrell?s husband Peter gave a healthy kidney to the Scottish woman?s ailing husband.
Since the operations, "Everything has improved enormously. Life is normal again, I feel as though I've got hope for the future," Mrs Horrell said.
"I used to do home dialysis twice a day so it was quite a burden. Sometimes I was barely able to walk or bend down, now I feel really well."
She said her husband had wanted to donate his kidney to her but it was found to be an incompatible match, forcing the couple to look elsewhere for potential donors.
Eventually, the Scottish couple were found and the operations took place at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Mr Horrell's kidney was packed in an ice-cold solution before being flown to Edinburgh airport, with the Scottish kidney completing the same journey in reverse.
Adrian McNeil, chief executive of the Human Tissue Authority, said Thursday: "This country has reached a milestone in how organs are donated. I firmly believe that our announcement today paves the way for a new era in organ donation.
"We hope this novel way of matching suitable organ donors will improve and save many more lives in future. We have two couples today celebrating the gift of life."
Currently there are around 6,500 people in the UK waiting for a new kidney and last year there were over 2,000 kidney transplants performed, almost 700 of which involved live donors.