Transplanting the Highly Sensitized Patient: The Emory Algorithm


*Corresponding author: Howard M. Gebel,


Renal transplant patients sensitized to HLA antigens comprise nearly one-third of the UNOS wait-list and receive 14% of deceased donor (DD) transplants, a rate half that of unsensitized patients. Between 1999 and 2003, we performed 492 adult renal transplants from DD; 120 patients (∼25%) had a panel reactive antibody (PRA) of >30%, with nearly half (n = 58) having a PRA of >80%. Our approach is based upon high-resolution solid-phase HLA antibody analysis to identify class I/II antibodies and a ‘virtual crossmatch’ to predict compatible donor/recipient combinations. Recipients are excluded from the United Network for Organ Sharing match run if donors possess unacceptable antigens. Thus, when sensitized patients appear on the match run, they have a high probability of a negative final crossmatch. Here, we describe our 5-year experience with this approach. Five-year graft survival ranged from 66% to 70% among unsensitized (n = 272), moderately sensitized (PRA < 30%, n = 100) and highly sensitized (>30% PRA; n = 120) patients, equal to the average national graft survival (65.7%). The application of this approach (the Emory Algorithm) provides a logical and systematic approach to improve the access of sensitized patients to DD organs and promote more equitable allocation to a highly disadvantaged group of patients awaiting renal transplantation.