Kidney donors’ lives not shortened

Study examines 15 years of data

By Nicole Ostrow
Bloomberg News / March 10, 2010

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NEW YORK - People who donate a kidney in the United States don’t die any faster than nondonors long term, according to a large study that looked at donors over 15 years.

Within the first 90 days after surgery to donate a kidney, their death rate was slightly higher, 3 per 10,000, compared with less than 1 per 10,000 for healthy nondonors, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. Over 15 years, there was no difference in deaths of donors compared with others matched by age, health status, gender, and race, said the study in yesterday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kidney transplants have almost doubled over the past 15 years in the United States as more older people became eligible and higher rates of diabetes led to kidney disease and increased demand, said Dorry Segev, lead author of the study. The need for kidneys far outpaces the organs available each year, with more than 83,000 on a US waiting list and 15,402 transplants performed from January through November last year, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

“Over the last 15 years, live kidney donation remains a very safe operation,’’ Segev, an associate professor of surgery and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in a March 5 telephone interview. “There is no evidence that living with one kidney rather than living with two kidneys after donating a kidney is associated with any increased risk of dying prematurely.’’

Previous studies that found kidney donation was safe have been much smaller and often lacked well-matched comparison groups, according to the study authors. The research analyzed data from a national registry of 80,347 living kidney donors in the United States who gave their organ from April 1994 to March 2009. They were compared with 9,364 people who were part of a national health survey.

Over those 15 years, 25 people died in the first 90 days after surgery, making their risk of dying from surgery 3.1 per 10,000 cases. That compared with 0.4 per 10,000 people for similarly healthy people who participated in the health survey. That makes the short-term risk of death after kidney donation surgery six times lower than from dying after gallbladder removal.