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Transplant tourism – a dangerous journey?


Corresponding author: Anthony J. Polcari, MD, Department of Urology, Loyola University Medical Center, 2160 S. First Avenue, Fahey Center, Room 200, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.
Tel.: 708 216 8152; fax: 708 216 1699;


Polcari AJ, Hugen CM, Farooq AV, Holt DR, Hou SH, Milner JE. Transplant tourism – a dangerous journey?
Clin Transplant 2011: 25: 633–637. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Abstract:  Introduction:  While the ethical aspects of transplant tourism have received much attention recently, less has been written about the medical safety of this practice. We retrospectively evaluated the outcomes of patients who purchased organs internationally and presented to our center for follow-up care.

Methods:  Baseline demographic characteristics were recorded. Post-operative outcomes including patient survival, graft survival, five-yr graft function, and complications were assessed.

Results:  Eight patients who purchased international organs for transplant were identified. The country of transplant was China (n = 3), Pakistan (n = 3), India (n = 1), and the Philippines (n = 1). All patients were born in either Asia or the Middle East and traveled to the region of their ethnicity for transplantation. The mean time to presentation was 49 d post-operatively. The overall one- and two-yr patient survival rates were 87% and 75%, respectively. One patient died of miliary tuberculosis and another of Acinetobacter baumanii sepsis. There was one case of newly acquired hepatitis B infection. At last follow-up, all six surviving patients had functioning grafts with a mean creatinine level of 1.26 mg/dL at five yr.

Conclusion:  Although intermediate-term graft function is acceptable, the early morbidity and mortality among transplant tourists is high. These results suggest that the associated risks may not justify the trip.