New program will improve chances of a kidney transplant for hard-to-match patients

All provinces and territories now part of national program


Winnipeg, MB – Canadian Blood Services, in collaboration with provincial and territorial Governments and organ donation and transplantation programs officially launched the Highly Sensitized Patient (HSP) program today. Canadians whose immune systems are more likely to reject a transplanted kidney and are difficult to find a match, now have a better chance through this new national organ sharing program. The HSP program uses high quality laboratories to allocate kidneys with an accuracy and efficiency that is unparalleled.

“The launch of the HSP program allows us to provide improved access to lifesaving transplants to Canadians waiting for kidney transplantation,” said Leah Hollins, Canadian Blood Services board chair. “When Canadian Blood Services was mandated to develop national services for organ and tissue donation and transplantation in 2008, Canada was one of the only developed nations without a national, coordinated system. We have come a long way and I would like to thank all provincial and territorial governments for the commitment they have demonstrated during the development of the HSP program.”

The launch of the HSP program is an important milestone in improving access to transplants for patients who are difficult to match with a donor kidney due to their high levels of sensitizing antibodies. These patients, known as ‘highly sensitized’, have developed antibodies that would attack a transplanted kidney unless the organ is very precisely matched.

Until recently, such patients only had access to the limited number of donors in their region. These hard-to-match patients represent approximately 20% of provincial waitlists, yet receive less than 1% of available organs. By increasing access to a larger donor pool, the HSP program promises to improve the chances of a kidney transplant for these disadvantaged patients.

The implementation of this national initiative across Canada began in October 2013 and by November 2014 all provinces and territories had joined the HSP program. Manitoba was one of the first provinces on board.

“Manitoba has been a leader in organ transplantation for many years, and I am especially pleased that it was a Manitoban who received the first kidney transplant through the innovative and exciting HSP program,” said the Honourable Sharon Blady, Minister of Health of Manitoba. “Provincial and territorial governments turned to Canadian Blood Services to develop leading practices and programs that facilitate organ sharing across jurisdictions and, ultimately, improve organ donation and transplantation on a national level. The HSP program is a prime example of the innovation and sustainable progress that is possible when governments, the organ and tissue donation and transplantation community and Canadian Blood Services work together in the best interests of all patients.”

Although it is still in its infancy, the HSP program has already yielded success stories. Since its establishment, the national initiative has facilitated 111 kidney transplants in Canada. Arnold Dysart, who currently lives in Gilbert Plains (Manitoba) with his wife, was the first beneficiary. In spring 2014, he received a kidney through the HSP program.

“Back in 1993, I received a kidney from my brother, but after 17 years, the organ failed and a second transplant was needed,” he recalled. After spending three years on the wait list, Mr. Dysart finally received a kidney because of the HSP program. There were no complications during the procedure and today, Mr. Dysart is feeling well and appreciating life without dialysis. “I am no longer restricted,” he said. “I love travelling and now, I’m free to go wherever I want.”

Quick Facts

  • The HSP program is for patients needing very specific matches from deceased kidney donors. Through the HSP Program, this group of patients now has access to a larger national donor pool, dramatically increasing the chance of a match.
  • Women are disproportionately highly sensitized due to antibodies developed during pregnancy.
  • More than 4,500 people are waiting for organ transplants in Canada today; however, only a fraction of Canadians are registered to donate. While many Canadians are aware of the need for organ transplants, there remains a shortage of donors.
  • For every 1,000,000 Canadians, about 15 people become deceased organ donors each year. Canada’s organ donation and transplant rate lags behind other developed nations.

Link to kidney transplant video:
Please credit: HSC Winnipeg