Northwestern surgeons perform awake kidney transplant

A 28-year-old patient stayed awake during an entire kidney transplant surgery at Northwestern Medicine, and he was discharged the next day. 

This marked a medical first for the Chicago-based system, according to a June 24 news release shared with Becker's

"Inside the operating room, it was an incredible experience being able to show a patient what their new kidney looked like before placing it inside the body," Satish Nadig, MD, PhD, a transplant surgeon and director of Northwestern's transplant center, said in the release. 

Instead of using general anesthesia, the surgical team used a single-spinal anesthesia shot for the patient, John Nicholas. Mr. Nicholas said he felt no pain during the May 24 procedure. 

"At one point during surgery, I recall asking, 'Should I be expecting the spinal anesthesia to kick in?" Mr. Nicholas said in the release. "They had already been doing a lot of work and I had been completely oblivious to that fact. Truly, no sensation whatsoever. I had been given some sedation for my own comfort, but I was still aware of what they were doing. Especially when they called out my name and told me about certain milestones they had reached."

Northwestern leaders said this practice could increase access to transplants for patients who are high risk or wary of receiving anesthesia. It also reduces length of stay from two to three days to less than 24 hours.

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