New technique removes organ donor's kidney through belly button

February 7, 2013 3:00:50 PM PST
Would you be more likely to donate a kidney to someone in need if it meant virtually no visual scar to your body?

Surgeons at Rush University Medical Center are now offering living donors the option of having their kidney removed through their belly button. For one Chicago family, the technique turned out to be a surprise bonus.

Veronica Sandoval donated a kidney to her mother just about a week and a half ago, and she barely has a scar to show for it.

Sandoval wanted to help her mother, who was in pain and suffering with just one kidney that wasn't working.

But it's just now starting to sink in for Sandoval how unusual her procedure really was. The kidney came out of a very small opening that was made through her belly button.

"I was like, it's amazing." Said Sandoval. "It really was. It was like a shocker."

The technical term is single-incision laparoscopic surgery, or SILS. This technique is one only a handful of centers across the country now do. Rush University Medical Center is one.

On top of the almost invisible scar, surgeons are hopeful this approach will mean less pain and a faster recovery.

"When the incision is closed and it heals, most of this incision is hidden within the V-shaped area of the belly button," said surgeon Sameh Fayek.

In general, single-incision kidney removal is the same as conventional laparoscopic surgery. But instead of making several small incisions in the donor's abdomen, just that one cut is made around the navel. Using a specially designed port, the kidney is then carefully removed.

It a more technically challenging operation, but Fayek says it is still very safe and worth the effort.

"We aim to hope to motivate other donors to come forward and be donors for others who need kidney transplants," Fayek said.

Sandoval and her mother Socorro are doing well.

Socorro is grateful for her family's loving support and especially her daughter's selfless gift that gives her the chance at a better life.

Not everyone will qualify for the belly button approach, but surgeons at Rush hope to offer it to as many people as possible.