African-Americans Are Less Likely to Receive Kidney Transplants

Of the 92,000 American waiting for a donor, more than one-third are Black.

Posted: 06/06/2012 02:23 PM EDT

Kidney failure is a serious issue among African-Americans: We are 3.5 times more likely to suffer from kidney disease. While we account for only 14 percent of the population, we make up 29 percent of all patients treated for kidney failure. For those who suffer kidney failure, a transplant might be needed.

Unfortunately, transplants don't come so easy for African-American patients.

A new John Hopkins University Medical School study found that in every kidney transplant center across the country, African-American patients are less likely to receive a transplant and less likely to have living donors than their white counterparts. Past studies have shown that kidney patients do better with compatible donors who are alive than those who have passed away.

“We were quite disappointed to find that not a single center in this country had equal attainment of live donor kidney transplants in African Americans and non-African Americans,” said the study’s lead author, Dorry Segev, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

 

He added, "We were hoping to find at least a few centers where there was racial parity, so we could learn best practices. We were surprised to find that those centers that treated the highest percentage of African Americans actually had the highest racial disparities.”

According to a National Kidney Foundation press statement, researchers looked at 275 facilities and found the following:

—At transplant centers with the highest disparities in living organ donation, African-Americans had 76 percent lower odds of obtaining a kidney from a living donor.
—At facilities that came closest to equality, African-Americans were still 35 percent less likely to obtain a transplant.
—Over 92,000 people are waiting for a kidney in the United States, and over a third of those are African-Americans.
—In 2011, there were 5,771 living donor transplants performed — the lowest rate in 10 years — but only 813 of those kidneys were received by African-Americans.

Why does this disparity exist?

The study's authors believe that part of it is due to cost — a transplant can cost up to $250,000 and insurance may not cover all of the related expenses. Also, finding donors who are healthy among African-Americans is very difficult thanks to health conditions like obesity, high-blood pressure and diabetes that potential Black donors may suffer from. They also point to cultural issues and myths as means of preventing family members and friends from donating to their loved ones.

The key is to remember that kidney disease and failure is preventable. Eating healthy, working out regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and cutting back on soda and excess salt can help decrease your risk of developing this disease.


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