Doctors at New South Wales Hospital use the recycled and diseased kidneys of cancer patients due to the critical shortage of organ donations in Australia.
The John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle have been quietly transplanting the kidneys into dialysis patients since 2008 with great success.
AdvertisementTransplant surgeon and urologist doctor Philip Sprott carries out the risky procedure, which involves clearing the kidney of cancer before transplanting it into the new patient.
"When we take out a kidney to cure the cancer of one individual, we often find that a large proportion of that kidney is quite healthy and normal," he said.
"We also know that if we can get rid of all of the cancer from a kidney, then the rest of the kidney is free of cancer. So we get that normal, free-of-cancer piece of kidney and patch it up a little bit and then transplant it into somebody who's needy, somebody who's more elderly or at higher risk or not doing very well on dialysis."
Sprott said the John Hunter Hospital had had great results with the procedure so far.
"All of the kidneys that we've transplanted have worked straight away," he said.
About two years ago 66-year-old Steven Weller was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that meant he had to rely on dialysis for survival. When he was finally offered a transplant, it was a kidney from a cancer patient.
"The risk was there but you've got the risk in any sort of operation anyway," Weller said, adding that the procedure had given him his life back.
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