April 1, 2024

New hope for Black kidney disease patients awaiting organ transplants

Editor's Note

A standard kidney function test has been underestimating the seriousness of disease in Black patients, delaying their eligibility for transplants, The Associated Press reported March 31. Now, that test is changing – and Black patients awaiting kidneys are moving up the list. 

Among other factors, transplant eligibility is based on blood type, medical urgency, and the length of time a patient has spent on the waiting list. Studies find that Black patients have longer waiting times for kidney transplants and are significantly less likely than white patients to receive kidney transplants, despite being 2.5 times more likely to develop end-stage kidney failure. 

In light of the recognition that earlier calculations related to kidney functioning were racially biased, organizations including the National Kidney Foundation, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the American Society of Nephrology pushed for race-neutral tests. To benefit patients already on the list, the transplant network empowered hospitals to identify Black kidney transplant candidates who would have been eligible were it not for the biased test and adjust waiting times accordingly. As a result, more than 14,300 Black kidney transplant candidates had their wait time adjusted by an average of two years. Of that total, 2,800 have received a transplant.

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