Lineage, Location and Kidney Transplants

Kidney transplantation rates were limited by Hispanic blood type and address

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Kidneys that are working well help the body get rid of toxins and stay properly hydrated. When the kidneys stop working properly, one possible fix may be to get a new kidney.

Hispanics have some of the highest rates of kidney disease. According to a new study, Hispanics tended to have blood types that were harder to match with blood types of potential kidney donors and they also tended to reside in areas where donated kidneys were in comparatively limited supply.

Those factors may have made Hispanics less likely than non-Hispanic whites to receive a transplant, the researchers found.

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Cristina Maria Arce, MD, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, was lead author of this study, which she conducted during her previous job at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Arce and her former research colleagues at Stanford investigated the medical records of 417,801 patients who began kidney dialysis from 1995 to 2007 and tracked them until the end of 2008. The dialysis patients were identified through the US Renal Data System, a national registry of persons with kidney failure.

Patients have two options when their kidneys fail: dialysis or kidney transplantation. Until a patient can get a new kidney, they have to be on dialysis, a process that replaces the normal function of kidneys by using a machine to remove waste and excess water from the blood.

The researchers said that, in this study, there was no significant difference between the amount of time it took for Hispanics and the time it took for non-Hispanics to be placed on a kidney transplant waiting list after they started dialysis. The researchers also found that Hispanics were equally as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be put on a kidney transplant waiting list.

From that point, however, Hispanics were 21 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to actually receive a transplant of a kidney harvested after the donor had died.

Hispanics' lower chances of getting a transplanted kidney mostly resulted from living in areas where there were relatively fewer donated kidneys and from having the O blood type, which can restrict the donor pool, the researchers wrote.

Michelle Segovia, Senior Public Relations Coordinator of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, believes there may be more to the story. "The reason Hispanics do not receive transplants at the rate of Caucasians is because Hispanics don’t donate at the rate of Caucasians. Organs are matched on blood type in addition to other factors. Since Hispanics are most genetically similar to people within their own ethnicity, it stands to reason that if fewer minorities are donating, fewer minorities will get the transplants they need."

She continued, "In addition, Hispanics tend to suffer from afflictions such as diabetes and hypertension (which damage organs) at a higher rate than Caucasians, and there are currently more than 22,000 Hispanics in this country waiting for an organ transplant."

"To overcome the geographic disparities that Hispanics encounter in the path to transplantation, organ allocation policy revisions are needed to improve donor organ equity," the researchers wrote.

Of the 70,000 Americans who are placed on a kidney transplant waiting list, roughly 18,000 actually get that operation, the researchers noted.

This study was published online October 10 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

One of the study's five researchers has been a paid consultant for several prescription drug manufacturers.

Review Date: 
October 10, 2013
Last Updated:
October 11, 2013