Consultant Renal Physician Dr Lorna Henderson

Dr Lorna Henderson is a Consultant Renal Physician at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh with her main focus being transplantation. She has been part of the team developing blood group and antibody incompatible live donor transplantation.
Why did you choose transplant as a speciality? 
It was clear to me early on that I wanted to specialise in transplant nephrology.  As a junior doctor, one of my first jobs was in the transplant unit in Edinburgh. I saw the difference transplantation could make to people’s lives and I really enjoyed being part of a multi-disciplinary team. I also have a background in immunology and this is very useful in transplantation.
Describe your role  
I meet potential live kidney donors early in their journey to ensure they are medically fit to donate a kidney and I provide renal medical input to the multi-disciplinary decision making process. I also work with other colleagues to ensure the recipient is prepared for transplantation. I have a special interest in overcoming immunological barriers to transplant and I work with the team to decide the best approach for individual patients.
What have been the most significant advances in transplantation in your view?  
I think the introduction of the paired exchange programme and altruistic donation have had a major impact on live donation. These two changes have resulted in a fantastic expansion in the number of live donor transplants. They have also helped many people who may have otherwise waited a very long time to receive a well matched kidney.
Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery for live kidney donors has also made a big difference to the speed of their recovery.
There has been a number of new drugs introduced to prevent and treat rejection after transplant. These drugs and a better understanding of what happens to the immune system after transplant, have allowed previously very high risk transplants to be possible.
What are the biggest challenges in your job?  
 I think the biggest challenge is making sure the team is satisfied that it is safe and the right thing to do to proceed with a live donor transplant. Sometimes we have to decide that it is not the right thing to go ahead and this is always difficult for everyone involved and obviously disappointing for the potential donor and recipient
What is the most rewarding part of your role?  
One of the things I find most rewarding is meeting the donor and recipient in High Dependency unit after both operations have been completed.
What advice would you give anyone considering donating a kidney?  
I would encourage people who are thinking about live donation to get in touch with us. A live donor transplant can make a huge difference to a person’s life. I would also emphasis that no matter what the situation is, the donor’s health is always our top priority and there is never any obligation to proceed once we have been approached.

Last Reviewed: 11/01/2016