Seniors Lack Access to Kidney Transplants

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BALTIMORE—Thousands more American senior citizens with kidney disease are good candidates for transplants and could get them if physicians would get past outdated medical biases and put them on transplant waiting lists, according to a study published in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

Johns Hopkins investigators estimated that between 1999 and 2006, roughly 9,000 adults over 65 would have been “excellent" transplant candidates and approximately 40,000 more older adults would have been “good" candidates for new kidneys. None, however, were given the chance.

“Doctors routinely believe and tell older people they are not good candidates for kidney transplant, but many of them are if they are carefully selected and if factors that really predict outcomes are fully accounted for," says transplant surgeon Dorry L. Segev, MD, PhD, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study. “Many older adults can enjoy excellent transplant outcomes in this day and age," he says, and should “be given consideration for this lifesaving treatment."

Those ages 65 and older make up over one-half of people with end-stage renal disease in the United States, and appropriately selected patients in this age group will live longer if they get new kidneys as opposed to remaining on dialysis, Segev said. The trouble is, he added, that very few older adults are even put on transplant waiting lists. In 2007, only 10.4 percent of dialysis patients between the ages of 65 and 74 were on waiting lists, compared to 33.5 percent of 18- to 44-year-old dialysis patients and 21.9 percent of 45- to 64-year-old dialysis patients.

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