Age No Barrier for Kidney Transplant

Older organs can be safely donated, received, study finds

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FRIDAY, March 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Age alone shouldn't prevent older adults from donating kidneys or from receiving kidney transplants, researchers conclude.

"You can no longer make the argument that transplanting a kidney into an older recipient is a wasted organ," Dr. Robert Stratta, director of transplantation services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

His team used newer methods to match kidneys from deceased donors with recipients and found that the ages of the donors and recipients affected neither patient survival nor short-term survival of the transplanted kidney.

The study included 144 kidney transplant patients who were tracked for at least a year. Twenty-six percent of the patients were aged 60 and older. A year after transplant, the survival rate for the transplanted kidneys was 86 percent in older recipients and 87 percent in younger recipients. One-year patient survival was 92 percent in the older group and 98 percent in the younger group.

The findings were presented Friday at a meeting of the Central Surgical Association in Tucson, Ariz.

"There is a critical shortage of kidneys for transplantation, which puts us in the difficult situation of rationing organs," Stratta explained. "Some physicians have ethical concerns that providing elderly patients with scarce donated kidneys may not represent a worthwhile investment."

However, people aged 50 and older account for about half of the more than 60,000 people in the United States waiting for kidney transplants.

Using the newer methods of matching kidneys, Wake Forest has been able to more than double its number of available kidneys for transplant. Previously, kidneys were matched exclusively by blood and tissue type.

These newer approaches allow the use of higher-risk kidneys that were once considered unsuitable for transplantation, including kidneys from deceased donors over age 60 or from people over age 50 with health problems such as high blood pressure or elevated levels of a protein called creatine, he said.

"We are matching based on age, weight, and kidney function. An older kidney has less capacity, and someone who weighs less doesn't need as much capacity. It is a concept that is in evolution," Stratta said.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more about kidney transplants.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, March 11, 2005

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