Upstate News

April 28, 2006
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

University Hospital officials urge more to consider organ donation as wait for new kidney is now more than three years

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The wait for a kidney transplant in Central New York keeps getting longer. Today, the wait for a new kidney stands at three and a half years, up from 18 months in 2000. Currently 139 people on the kidney wait list at University Hospital.

“For someone in need of a new lease on life, this wait is interminable,” said Dilip Kittur, M.D., chief of the Transplant Services at University Hospital. “The longer people waits for a kidney, the more likely they will continue to suffer setbacks in their health.”

According to Kittur, for a patient with diabetes who is on dialysis and in need of a kidney transplant, the risk of a cardiovascular incident rises 20 percent each year. “A long wait for a kidney for someone in this situation has serious health consequences,” he said. “Kidney dialysis, which cleans the blood, only occurs 12 hours a week. A healthy kidney operates 24 hours a day.”

Officials from University Hospital’s Transplant Services and the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, cited the lengthy wait for a kidney transplant shows there is a clear need for more donors.

“The only obstacle we face in improving the lives of those in need of kidneys are willing donors,” Kittur said.

There are two types of donors: cadaveric and living donors. Cadaveric donors are deceased. “We are so grateful for families who have had discussions about being organ donors in the event of a sudden death,” Kittur said. “Many, while mourning the loss of a loved one, feel that donating a kidney or other organ is a way for some goodness to come out of tragedy.”

But cadaveric kidney donation cannot meet the needs of all patients on the wait list, which is why officials want to raise awareness of the need for living donors.

Kittur admits that making the decision to be a living donor is not an easy one and should only be arrived at after careful discussion with family members and physicians.

If one is interested in becoming a living donor, various medical tests will be conducted to determine whether he or she can be matched with someone in need of a kidney. The prospective donor will also receive counseling to help prepare for the emotions involved in become a kidney donor.

Cost should not be a barrier to becoming a donor. In most, if not all, cases, the cost of the transplantation operations and pre and post-surgical exams are paid for by the kidney recipients insurance carrier. Some donors may also have their costs associated with the transplant covered by Medicare’s End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) program.

But perhaps the most important prerequisite for a living donor is to be in good general health. That may seem to be an easy requirement to fulfill, but officials say it’s getting to be more difficult to find living donors in good general health. Since 2003, the number of living donor kidney transplants performed at University Hospital has declined, from 25 out of 38 procedures to 15 in 43 transplants last year.

A significant reason for rejection of a prospective donor is obesity, officials say. Obesity can present health problems that might turn a potential donor into an unsuitable candidate.

Another reason cited for the increase in the wait for a kidney transplant, are medical advances. In the past, many patients in need of a kidney may have been ruled out as a transplant candidate. Today, more and more people are eligible for kidney transplantation, officials said.

Life expectancies increase from about four years with dialysis, to 15 years with a kidney transplant. Despite the superior survival and better quality of life with a transplant, only about 5 percent of dialysis patients will receive a transplant in the United States, due to a limited supply of donor organs.

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