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A pioneering new method to assess the quality of organs for donation has the potential to revolutionize the transplant system, saving lives and tens of millions of pounds.

The “digital health package”, which has received more than £1 million funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), works in the same way as Artificial Intelligence-based facial recognition technology to evaluate the quality of an organ. The University of Newcastle described this new project in a press release.

It is estimated the technology, known as OrQA – Organ Quality Assessment – could result in up to 200 more patients receiving kidney transplants and 100 more liver transplants a year in the UK.

Best treatment

The OrQA software will be ready for a licensing study within the NHS within two years. There is also the possibility of marketing the tool worldwide. Transplant surgeon Colin Wilson, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, is co-lead of the project. He said: “Transplantation is the best treatment for patients with organ failure, but unfortunately, some organs can’t be used due to concerns they won’t function properly once transplanted.

“The software we have developed ‘scores’ the quality of the organ and aims to support surgeons to assess if the organ is healthy enough to be transplanted. Our ultimate hope is that OrQA will result in more patients receiving life-saving transplants and enable them to lead healthier, longer lives.”

There are currently nearly 7,000 patients awaiting organ transplant in the UK. The waiting list for liver transplants has increased significantly since before the pandemic.

Tempestivity in decision-making and action

An organ can only survive out of the body for a limited time and, in most cases, only one journey from the donor hospital to the recipient hospital is possible, meaning it is essential that the right decision is made quickly.

A key part of the OrQA assessment is to look for damage, pre-existing conditions and how well the blood has been flushed out of the organ (organ perfusion). This is important as organs blocked with clots will not be able to connect to the recipient’s blood system during implantation.

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