Never too old to donate a kidney?

October 28, 2011

Washington, DC -- People over age 70 years of age can safely donate a kidney, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN). The results provide good news for patients who need a kidney but have limited options for donors; however, kidneys from these elderly donors do not last as long as those from younger living donors.

Because of a profound shortage in organs for transplantation, patients in need of a kidney face long waiting times and increased risks of dying. In response, patients are turning to older living donors. This brings up an important question: should there be an upper age limit for donation for the sake of both recipients' and donors' health?

To investigate, Jonathan Berger, MD, Dorry Segev, MD, PhD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), and their colleagues studied 219 healthy adults over the age of 70 years who donated kidneys and compared them with healthy elderly individuals who were not organ donors. The researchers looked to see if these older donors put themselves at extra risk of death by donating and having one kidney versus having two. The team also wanted to know if a kidney from a living donor over 70 years of age was as good as other donor organs. To do so, they compared the kidney health of recipients of older donor kidneys to that of recipients of kidneys from younger donors and deceased donors.

Healthy individuals over 70 years old were no more likely to die within one, five, or 10 years after donating than healthy elderly individuals who were not organ donors; in fact, their death rates were lower. The organs from elderly donors did not last as long as those from younger living donors, but they lasted just as long as organs from younger deceased donors.

"It is important for individuals over 70 who want to donate a kidney to be aware that many have done so safely. Many older adults -- and even many physicians -- are not even aware that this occurs," said Dr. Segev. "But it is important for transplant centers to continue to scrutinize all donor candidates, particularly older ones," he added.
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Study co-authors include Abimereki Muzaale, MD, Nathan James, Jacqueline Garonzik Wang, MD, Robert Montgomery, MD, DPhil, Allan Massie, and Erin Hall, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine); and Mohammed Hoque (Stony Brook State University of New York).

Disclosures: The authors reported no financial disclosures.

The article, entitled "Living Kidney Donors Ages 70 and Older: Recipient and Donor Outcomes," will appear online at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/ on October 28, 2011, doi:10.2215/CJN.04160511.

The content of this article does not reflect the views or opinions of The American Society of Nephrology (ASN). Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the author(s). ASN does not offer medical advice. All content in ASN publications is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions, or adverse effects. This content should not be used during a medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider if you have any questions about a medical condition, or before taking any drug, changing your diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment. Do not ignore or delay obtaining professional medical advice because of information accessed through ASN. Call 911 or your doctor for all medical emergencies.

Founded in 1966, and with more than 12,000 members, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) leads the fight against kidney disease by educating health professionals, sharing new knowledge, advancing research, and advocating the highest quality care for patients.

American Society of Nephrology

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