Scandinavia’s largest transplantation unit strengthened by cross-hospital collaboration


Karolinska’s capacity for transplants and donations was expanded during 2020, and the liver transplantation unit has become the largest in Scandinavia. The quality is also outstanding, with patient survival rates among the very highest in an international context.

"We are extremely proud of the results", says Gunnar Söderdahl, who is head of the Department of Transplantation Surgery in Huddinge.

The history of transplantations in Stockholm began in 1964, when Sweden's first kidney transplant was performed at the Seraphim Hospital. Today, the focus is on kidney, liver and pancreas transplants, and this type of care can be described as highly specialised, as many different parts of the hospital are involved in various ways.

Successful collaboration

"A major part of this success can be attributed to the long-term efforts to strengthen the work with donations in the region, where the creation of the Regional Donation Centre has been particularly successful. In addition, many units and departments at Karolinska have also been involved in our work. I would especially like to say that the dedicated cross-hospital collaboration has been our single-most important concept for success. We no longer only look at our own results but are working towards common goals", explains Gunnar Söderdahl, who is head of the Department of Transplantation Surgery in Huddinge.

It is not only at the hospital level that the collaboration, as well as the following-up, has improved, but also at the national level, where care is partly provided within national highly specialised care, and where Karolinska and Sahlgrenska hospitals not only assist each other but also regularly compare their results.

"By continually measuring and comparing ourselves against each other, we are given the additional motivation to always strive to become even better. Naturally, we are delighted that our transplantation unit – as the only unit in Sweden during 2020 – has grown, with regard to both liver and kidney transplants, and that the liver transplantation unit is now the largest in all of Scandinavia. Previously, those in both Gothenburg and Oslo were bigger", says Gunnar Söderdahl.

Process developments

At the same time as the unit has been able to help record numbers of patients, it also introduced three major technical advances during 2020, partially driven by the ever-increasing activities in research and development.

For example, new techniques for the procurement of organs have been applied, which has meant that more organs have been available for use. One example of these techniques is the development of a method whereby, shortly before the donation operation, blood circulation is restored to the organ after death as a result of circulatory arrest.

"We have also successfully introduced machine perfusion for liver transplants shortly before the transplantation, which serves to further increase the quality of the organ. Another new development is that we have begun to perform robot-assisted kidney donation operations in conjunction with kidney transplantation where the donor is alive, which could ultimately also be practised in conjunction with certain transplantations", explains Gunnar Söderdahl.