Skip to main content
Sign In

Welcome to the Department of Surgery

Surgery Banner Image

News & Information

Division of Transplant Surgery

Dr. Nydam receives ASTS research grant

Trevor Nydam, MD

What can hibernating ground squirrels teach us about kidney transplantation? Trevor Nydam, MD, of the Division of Transplant Surgery, aims to find out.

Normally, a kidney removed from the human body would begin dying immediately. To prevent this, donor kidneys are cooled to a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius. This near-freezing state is known as cold ischemia. During transplantation, the kidney is "warmed up" by reconnecting its blood supply.

One challenge in transplantation is that a kidney can only remain in cold ischemia for a limited period of time. After about 30 hours, the risk of cell death increases dramatically, making it less likely that the transplanted kidney will function optimally.

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Enter the ground squirrel. During hibernation, the body temperature of this small mammal can drop to 4 degrees Celsius or below for several days. Amazingly, when the squirrel emerges from hibernation, its kidneys warm back up to their normal temperature and suffer no damage.

What protects the squirrel's kidneys during these extended periods of cold? Recent research suggests some possible mechanisms involving specific enzymes and proteins. Manipulation of these enzymes and proteins might, Dr. Nydam believes, lead to new ways of protecting and preserving human donor kidneys for a longer period of time than is currently possible.

In order to pursue this promising line of research, Dr. Nydam was awarded the 2014 ASTS–Astellas Faculty Development Grant from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. Read more about the grant on the ASTS website.

(August 2014)

Kidney donation network helps patients move up transplant list

Kidney donation network helps patients move up transplant list

If the walls of University of Colorado Hospital could talk, they would tell many stories of courageous individuals who donated one of their kidneys to a parent, spouse, or other loved one who would otherwise have faced a long wait for a transplant. But what happens when the would-be donor is unable to help his/her loved one because of organ incompatibility?

The National Kidney Registry now offers a database that allows “mismatched pairs” to find one another. For example, one of our patients recently donated a kidney to a stranger in Seattle, facilitating an exchange that allowed her mother to receive a kidney transplant from a patient in Georgia. As a result of the matching program, two lives were saved. Read more on the Fox 31 news website.

(July 2014)

New transplant surgeon broadens department’s expertise

Dr. Peter Kennealey

The Division of Transplant Surgery is pleased to welcome Dr. Peter Kennealey to our faculty.

Dr. Kennealey completed his fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School in 2009, then moved to Colorado to work at Porter Adventist Hospital, where he served as surgical director of kidney transplantation. This May, he joined our faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Dr. Kennealey's addition to our team is especially welcome because of his expertise in vascular access surgery, a procedure that prepares patients for dialysis and kidney transplantation. Read more in UCHealth Central Insider.

(July 2014)

Donor Dash 2014 breaks records

Donor Dash 2014

The UCH team prepares to run in the Donor Dash.  Enlarge photo

Nearly 5,300 people—including 149 from University of Colorado Hospital—turned out at Denver's Washington Park July 20 for the Donor Dash. Both totals were the largest in the 15-year history of the 5k event, said UCH Marketing Strategist Heather Hogoboom.

The hospital was a presenting sponsor with Donor Alliance, the organ procurement organization for Colorado and Wyoming. The event honored the lives of donors and celebrated the lives of recipients. It also raised awareness of the many people waiting for an organ transplant.

See MORE photos from the event on the Donate Life Colorado Facebook page.

(July 2014)

Denver woman gives liver, saves mom, finds career

Linsey Pratt, PA (click to read her story)

Lindsay Pratt was a young pharmaceutical sales rep working in Denver when her mother was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease. When Lindsay offered to donate a portion of her own liver for transplant, her mother originally resisted — "I felt like I had lived my life," she recalls, "and I didn't want to put [my daughter] in danger." But Lindsay pleaded with her as the disease progressed, and her mother eventually accepted.

Dr. Igal Kam operated on Lindsay, and Dr. Michael Wachs operated on her mother. Not only did the transplant save the mother's life, it also inspired Lindsay to find a new career direction. Today, she works as a physician assistant in the hepatology clinic at University of Colorado Hospital. Read more in UCHealth Central Insider.

(July 2014)

Daughter gives gift of life to father

Video: Daughter donates kidney to save her father

As a teenager, Gary was involved in a car accident that caused him lifelong problems with his kidneys. Nearly fifty years later, he found himself placed on a transplant list with kidney failure.

When his daughter Lena found out, she immediately got tested as a potential match and discovered that she could donate a kidney to save her father's life. Their operations took place here at University Hospital. For the rest of the story, watch the video on the Fox 31 website.

(June 2014)

Stranger donates kidney to save Loveland woman’s life

Video: Kidney transplant saves Loveland woman

For months, Gary McCormack wore the same sweatshirt everywhere he went. The sweatshirt read simply, "KIDNEY NEEDED. SAVE A LIFE. PLEASE CALL 970-667-7841."

Gary's wife Phyllis had polycystic kidney disease. Without a transplant from a matching donor, she would die. Gary was not eligible to donate the needed kidney himself, but his efforts set in motion a series of events that culminated in a successful kidney transplant for Phyllis here at University of Colorado Hospital.

To learn more about Phyllis, her husband, and the complete stranger who saved her life by donating a kidney, watch the video on the 9News website. (A brief commercial will play before the video starts.)

(June 2014)

Television program celebrates organ donation, highlights needs

Watch the show on the CPT12 website

A recent hour-long program on Colorado Public Television entitled Second Chance at Life explores the need for organ donation in our state today.

Guests on the show include UCH transplant coordinator Tracy Steinberg and several grateful individuals who received organ transplants at University of Colorado Hospital. You can watch the show for free (and commercial-free) on the Colorado Public Television 12 website.

(March 2014)

Dr. Igal Kam celebrates 25 years at helm of Transplant Surgery

Play video

Over the past 25 years, thousands of patients' lives have been transformed by liver, kidney, and pancreas transplants at University of Colorado. Given this recent history of success, many people would be surprised to learn that it took a visionary effort on the part of one doctor to bring our transplantation program back from the dead in 1988.

The program had been closed eight years earlier, in part because of the difficulties plaguing organ transplantation at the time: long operations in which the patients could lose over 10 gallons of blood, difficulties with organ rejection, and discouragingly short survival rates. In spite of these obstacles, Dr. Igal Kam had the courage to revive the program, overcoming his colleagues' skepticism and ultimately paving the way for the successes of the past two decades.

In the UCH Insider articles below, you can read Dr. Kam's story. And don't forget to watch the video above (right) for a candid and sometimes comical tribute to Dr. Kam by his colleagues, employees, and his mentor Thomas Starzl.

Dr. Igal Kam in 1988 and today

Read Dr. Kam's story in UCH Insider.

Drs. Karrer and Kam

View photos and coverage of the 25th-anniversary celebration.

(November 2013)