Kids' Kidney Transplants Keep Getting Better

Kidney transplants in children have continually improved since 1987

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Receiving a new organ is a complex and sometimes unsettling process for children and their families. But when it comes to kidney transplants, the news just keeps getting better.

A recent study has found that the long-term outcomes for children receiving kidney transplants has continually increased over the past 25 years.

The long-term survival rate for both children and the kidneys have increased steadily and remain high for all groups.

At the same time, rates for poorly functioning or delayed functioning kidneys have decreased from 1987 to the present day.

"Discuss kidney transplant options with your specialist."

The study, led by Kyle J. Van Arendonk, MD, PhD, of the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, aimed to learn how children receiving kidney transplants fared over the long-term.

The researchers analyzed 17,446 cases in which children received kidney transplants between 1987 and 2012.

Across the entire population, the survival rate for children receiving a new kidney was 91 percent in 2001, compared to 78 percent in 1987.

The survival rate for the kidneys themselves over 10 years was 60 percent in 2001, compared to 47 percent in 1987.

The kidneys transplanted also performed better in recent years compared to the early years of transplants.

In 2011, approximately 3.3 percent of kidneys failed to function and 5.3 percent functioned only after a delay.

In 1987, however, 15.4 percent of kidneys did not function properly after the transplant, and 19.7 percent had delayed functioning.

Then the researchers compared several outcome measures from 1987 and more recent years after taking into account differences between characteristics of the recipients, the donors and the transplant operations themselves.

These calculations revealed that the risk of losing a new kidney after a transplant had dropped by 5 percent each year since 1987, as had the risk of death following a transplant.

For each year since 1987, children were 10 percent less likely to receive a kidney that would not function and 5 percent less likely to receive a kidney with delayed functioning.

There were some subgroups that did not see as large overall improvements in these measures as the overall population of children studied.

Teenagers and females had slightly lower improvements over the years studied, as did those who received dialysis before the transplant.

All the improvements seen across all groups were particularly apparent in the first year after a child received a kidney transplant.

"Outcomes after pediatric kidney transplantation have improved dramatically over time for all recipient subgroups, especially for highly sensitized recipients," the authors wrote.

"Most improvement in graft and patient survival has come in the first year after transplantation, highlighting the need for continued progress in long-term outcomes," they wrote.

Michelle Segovia, of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, pointed out that these success rates reveal even moreso how important it is to be an organ donor.

"There are currently more than 99,500 men, women and children awaiting a kidney transplant," she said. "Many will be on dialysis for years before a kidney becomes available. Due to the critical organ shortage, some may not receive their transplant in time."

Segovia said an individual can save up to eight lives through organ donation. She said it is important to discuss your decision with your family and that donors can register at

This study was published March 10 in the journal Pediatrics. The research did not receive outside funding, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 10, 2014
Last Updated:
March 10, 2014