Classes for Your Kidney Transplant

Kidney transplant inequalities could be reduced through required educational programs

(RxWiki News) Certain populations, such as African Americans, are less likely than whites to get a kidney transplant when they need it. This may be happening because patients do not know about the entire transplant process.

Kidney failure patients are more likely to get evaluated for a kidney transplant after taking a class that teaches them about the transplant process.

Requiring patients to take such classes could help reduce the gap in kidney transplant rates between different groups.

"Get evaluated for a transplant if you have kidney failure."

It is not entirely clear why black kidney failure patients are less likely than whites to get a kidney transplant. One possible reason for this difference may be that some patients have not been taught all the steps involved in getting a kidney transplant.

In 2007, Emory Transplant Center started to require an educational session for every kidney failure patient who was referred for kidney transplant evaluation. During this half-day class, patients received important information on the transplant process from a transplant coordinator, financial coordinator, and social worker.

Rachel Patzer, Ph.D., of Emory University, and her fellow researchers wanted to see if kidney failure patients who were required to take part in this education program were more likely to get a kidney transplant evaluation.

Before any patient can get a new kidney, they must go through a transplant evaluation. During a kidney transplant evaluation, a transplant coordinator will set up a series of tests to see if the patient has any possible health problems like heart disease, infection, and obesity.

A transplant evaluation also involves screening tests that determine a patient's blood and tissue types. For a kidney transplant to be successful, the organ donor and recipient must have either the same blood type or compatible types.

From their research, Dr. Patzer and colleagues found that 80.4 percent of kidney failure patients completed a kidney transplant evaluation within one year after taking part in an education program. In comparison, only 44.7 percent of patients completed an evaluation before the program was put into effect.

For their study, the researchers looked at information on 1,126 kidney failure patients who were referred for kidney transplant evaluation between 2005 and 2008. Three quarters of these patients were referred for evaluation before the program started. The remaining patients were referred after the program was implemented.

The education program especially boosted the likelihood that black patients would complete a kidney transplant evaluation within one year.

Patients living in poor neighborhoods (another population with less access to kidney transplants) also benefited greatly from attending the educational session.

According to Dr. Patzer, "This study provides some evidence to test an intervention of a patient education program for potential transplant candidates in a randomized controlled study to examine whether this improves access to kidney transplantation for poor or minority patients."

"These results may also give other centers an idea of how to design and evaluate their own centers’ educational programs by subgroups of race and socioeconomic status," she also notes.

Dr. Patzer adds that current guidelines do not offer guidance on how to design the most effective educational program. As such, more research is needed to figure out the best content and format for these programs.

The study is published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology