Past, Present and Future
of Hungarian Organ Transplantation

By Prof. Robert M. Langer, Head of the Department of Transplantation and Surgery, Semmelweis University, Budapest

In 1902 a Hungarian surgeon Emerich (Imre) Ullmann performed the worldwide first successful kidney transplantation in the dog in Vienna. In 1962 András Németh in Szeged, Hungary performed a living related renal transplantation (as the 7th surgeon and the 36th such operation) in Europe which was technically successful, but due to rejection first the graft and 79 days later the patient was lost.

The first successful kidney transplant program in Hungary was started in 1973 by Ferenc Perner in Budapest and in 1979 Szeged joined with a second program. At that time our country was part of Intertransplant, an organ exchange organization founded in 1974. Very few organs were exchanged between the former Eastern Block countries and in 1989 Intertransplant stopped its activities due to the political changes in Europe. Therefore, two decades ago there were only two kidney transplantation centers in Hungary. Within a few years two more centers started a renal transplant program, subsequently a heart and a liver program were initiated and a collaboration was begun with Vienna for lung transplantation. In two centers we perform combined pancreas-kidney transplantations also. The Hungarian Transplant Society was also founded because of the growing interest in organ transplantation. In 2009 attitude changes began occurring in Hungarian transplant professionals which led to the conclusion that Hungary should join Eurotransplant. The stagnating donor numbers during the previous 15 years resulted in a plateau in transplant numbers. The problems of the pediatric organ shortage, the unsolved problem of sensitized patients and high urgency cases desperately required a bigger donor pool for a balanced organ exchange.

In December 2010 The State Secretary for Heath Issues, Dr. Miklós Szócska announced an action plan for addressing the problems of transplantation in Hungary which included financial help to reach the European average number of patients on the waiting lists, an effort to increase donation activities, to bring lung transplantation to Hungary, to educate the public and the medical societies about transplantation, and finally, to start negotiations for membership in Eurotransplant.

This makes the year 2010 a milestone in the history of Hungarian transplantation with the hope for the beginning of a new era. Additionally, during this year the ratio of living donation/deceased donor transplantation relating kidney transplantation became 20% at the Budapest center and country-wide surpassed the last two years of 10%. Living donation is available in all four Hungarian Transplant Centers, but its ratio was under 5% for many years.

With all of these new opportunities the Hungarian transplantation community looks optimistically toward the challenges of the future.