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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Getting Grandpa’s kidney

As of last year, 93,000 people in the United States were on the waiting list for a donor kidney.  Needless to say, there aren’t enough to go around.  Now, new research by a team from Johns Hopkins may have broadened the search criteria.  The doctors, led by Dorry Segev, have found that older donors can safely donate kidneys even past the age of 70.

The researchers compared 219 kidney donors who were over the age of 70 at the time of their donation to a matched set of seniors who had not donated organs.  Not only did mortality not increase for the donors, but it actually decreased over the ten years after the donation.  This is not to suggest that donating a kidney can prolong your life.  Despite matching controls to donors as carefully as possible, the authors suggest that the criteria to become an older donor may have selected for slightly healthier individuals.  In other words, the donor group would probably have lived longer regardless of whether or not they gave a kidney.  In any case, they certainly weren’t handicapped by their choice to donate a kidney.

How did the recipients fare?  The kidneys from donors over age 70 did not last as long as kidneys from live donors under age 60.  However, the older kidneys were just as good as younger kidneys from deceased donors.  

In conclusion, if you need a kidney and Grandpa is willing to give you one of his, you should take it.  It’s a win-win for everyone.