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Tulane first in region to introduce new robotic-assisted kidney transplant

April 21, 2023 2:30 PM

Adarsh Vijay, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Abdominal Transplant at Tulane University School of Medicine.


Patients who need a kidney transplant but might not qualify for traditional transplant surgery have new hope, thanks to a procedure performed by surgeons at Tulane University School of Medicine.  Adarsh Vijay, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, and an interdisciplinary medical team performed the first kidney transplant from a living donor to a recipient using robotic technology in the Gulf South.

The 32-year-old patient was experiencing kidney failure due to FSGS, a rare disease that causes scarring in the filters of the kidneys. She had been turned down for a traditional kidney transplant because her weight was too high.

Typical kidney transplantation requires a 10 to 12-inch incision along the hip, which leads to a large scar and the risk of wound infection. The da Vinci Xi robot used by Tulane surgeons only requires a few eight-millimeter incisions for the surgical arms and camera, and the kidney can then be inserted through a small incision near the belly button or across the bikini line.

With the robotic approach, patients recover much quicker and can get back to living their lives much sooner. In patients with elevated weight, the risk of wound infection is greatly reduced because the incisions are smaller.

“Our transplant recipient recovered really fast from surgery and was yearning to get back to her normal life when seen on her first post-operative clinic visit,” said Vijay. “Using the latest technology to help our patients live full lives is the true spirit of innovation. The robotic platform is an alternative for patients dealing with obesity, challenging anatomy, or averse to large visible scars.”

Tulane is one of the few transplant programs nationwide and the only program in the four Gulf South states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to perform both donor nephrectomy and recipient kidney transplants robotically.

“In Louisiana, the state with the 4th highest prevalence of obesity, this option will have a major impact on our patient population,” said Mary Killackey, MD, Robert and Viola Lobrano Chair in Surgery at Tulane University School of Medicine. “With this new operative technique, we are seeing the benefits of academic medical centers, which are leaders in research and can provide cutting-edge care.”

“We are committed to mitigating the disparity in healthcare access and outcomes,” said Killackey. “The multidisciplinary environment at Tulane and other academic medical centers creates the opportunity for these impactful changes.”