Kidney donation by healthy older donors is unlikely to increase their risk of death or heart disease in a meaningful way, according to a study published in the American Journal of Transplantation. This comes after earlier studies established the increased mortality rates from cardiovascular disease in older patients with successful kidney transplantation. They had reported the risk of death from cardiovascular disease to be about 21 times higher in 55 to 64 year old diabetics who had undergone kidney transplantation and anywhere from 3 to 16 times in healthy older patients. This threat may also be valid for older kidney donors.
In view of this, Dr. Peter Reese, assistant professor of Medicine in Renal- Electrolyte and Hypertension Division, and director of Kidney Transplant Outcomes Clinical Research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and his team set out to look into the safety of donating for older kidney donors.
AdvertisementThey compared 3368 older kidney donors with equal number of older non-donors for 7.8 years and found that there were no significant differences in mortality rates between the two groups.
Kidney donation in India
The study has far-reaching implications in India where there is a huge demand for kidney transplants. Data reveals that over 150,000 people are waiting for a kidney and only 7000 of them are getting a transplantation from living or deceased donors. The need for kidneys rises each year but rate of transplants has plateaued because of limited availability of donors.
Misconceptions and doubts among the public regarding donation after death, shortage of medical facilities, and high cost of transplantation are some of the deterrents in Indian kidney donors and dialysis patients.
'Organ donation is a gracious act; it reaffirms our faith in humanity. However over the last 10 to 15 years the organ donation process is marred in India due to the stigma attached to kidney donation,' says Dr. Sunil Shroff, founder of non-governmental, non-profit organ donation organization - MOHAN Foundation.
In India, donors between the ages of 20 and 60, free from major health problems, are considered eligible. But all healthy donors can't donate their kidneys. They have to fulfill the required medical standards; especially and definitively, the blood groups should match.
Further, the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THO Act of 1994 and the amended 2011 Act ) prohibited commercial dealing in organs. The second important legislation was that only the first relative can donate kidneys in case of related kidney transplant operation. In the event of there being no first relative and someone other than first relative was willing to donate, government permission was required. This again limits the intention for kidney donation.
Now, that it has been found safe for older adults to donate their kidney, the kidney donation scenario can improve a little bit more.
There are three things that you can do if you are interested in donating your kidney -
• Once you make a decision to donate your organs after death, discuss it with your family.
• Register your decision with organ donation organizations like www.mohanfoundation.org
Ensure that you receive a donor card from the organization that you registered in and always carry your donor card in your wallet.
You always have the option to change your mind about donating. Just de-register yourself, tear up your donor card and inform your family and relatives that you have changed your mind.
But you know now that you are never too old to donate a kidney.
'Transplant centres everywhere should provide this new information to older individuals considering kidney donation,' noted Dr. Reese.
Kidney donation side effects
That said, it is also important to know the risks of kidney donation by older adults.
• Recovery period after surgery would be longer for older donors.
• The risk of end stage renal disease with complications like hernias increases in older donors.
Granted, donation of kidney is not an inconsequential issue, but people can do just fine even with a single kidney.