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USC official explains how wrong patient received kidney, says new procedures are in place

April 5, 2011 |  4:36 pm

Surgeons at USC University Hospital accidentally transplanted a kidney into the wrong patient earlier this year because the system used to verify organs was flawed, the head of the transplant program said Tuesday.

In the first detailed explanation of the incident, Dr. Cynthia Herrington, medical director of the USC Transplant Institute, said the hospital had made changes that should prevent such a mistake in the future.

“We own the mistake,” she said. “We put together an iron-clad correction plan and I really feel this will never happen again.”

Herrington's comments came as the hospital announced it was restarting kidney transplants immediately with the new safeguards in place, more than two months after closing the program to investigate the Jan. 29 incident.

Herrington said the patient who was supposed to get the kidney is still on the USC waiting list, contrary to initial reports from a local transplant official who said the patient had quickly received an organ after the error. The patient who received the kidney is doing well, Herrington said, because the organ happened to be compatible with her immune system.

The hospital had 504 patients on a waiting list as of April 1, about the same as when the program shut down. Herrington said the hospital didn’t lose any patients as a result of the mix-up.

The highly unusual error prompted investigations by state and federal health regulators, which are ongoing.

A consortium of transplant centers, known as the United Network for Organ Sharing, conducted a review of the program and accepted USC’s corrective plan.

The hospital had been performing about two transplants a week. Nationwide, more than 88,000 people are waiting for kidneys, and fewer than 17,000 received transplants last year.


USC shuts down kidney transplant program after mistake

USC transplants kidney into wrong person

-- Lisa Girion