Category: organ donation

The US is throwing away at least 3,500 donated kidneys every year, study finds

There are currently 93,000 people in the United States on a waiting list for a donated kidney, yet at least 3,500 donated kidneys are discarded every year, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The lack of organs for kidney failure patients is a major public health problem and one that President Donald Trump addressed in July when he signed an executive order promising to transform kidney care in this country.

More than 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and roughly 5,000 die each year while on the kidney waiting list. That’s about 12 people each day, making kidney disease the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.

In this new study, researchers looked at the number of deceased donors with organs offered to kidney transplant centers between 2004 and 2014. Over that time period, 156,089 kidneys were donated; 128,102 were transplanted; 27,987 were discarded. That means more than 17% of kidneys donated in this United States were discarded.

Since the end of the study period in 2014, the number of discarded kidneys has increased. In 2016, 3,631 donated kidneys — about 20% — were discarded, according to the researchers.

In comparison, in France, only about 9% of donated kidneys were discarded during the study period. The difference was because, in France, doctors were more willing to use older kidneys and kidneys from people who had other ailments such as diabetes or hypertension.

Research has found that new treatment approaches to manage the complications of donated organs make the transplant even of a lesser quality organ, a better option than dialysis, but US policies haven’t kept up.

One of the main drivers of this trend, the authors say, is that there is “intense regulatory scrutiny of US transplant programs, which may lose credentials if their one-year death and graft failure outcomes exceed predicted outcomes.” In other words, if the organ isn’t in the best shape, transplant centers may be risk averse and reluctant to take a chance.

There are guidelines, but there is no one universally applied method to determine which kidneys will be transplanted and which kidneys will be discarded.

There are several other reasons a kidney would be discarded. It could be in bad shape, there could be an abnormal biopsy on the organ, or some other physical issues. But there are also financial and regulatory reasons that they get discarded. An older kidney or one with comorbidities costs more to transplant, because a patient is hospitalized longer and it takes a patient longer to recover.

Some regions discard more kidneys than others, the study said, suggesting that a decision to keep or discard a donated organ is at least somewhat subjective.

A 2016 study of discarded kidneys deemed unfit for transplant was reviewed by a panel of transplant experts that found as many as 50% of the kidneys that were discarded could have been transplanted, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

To address this issue, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) — which governs the transplant system in the United States — created a kidney donor profile index that’s been used since 2012. The score predicts the survival of deceased donor kidneys. In 2014, UNOS changed the kidney allocation system so that lower quality kidneys can be offered to a wider region, but neither of these initiatives changed the rate of discarded organs. The number of discarded organs has actually risen to 20%, according to a study published in January 2019. It was 14.9% in 2006, and in some regions the discard rate is even higher than 30%.

For years, kidney advocacy organizations have called for a change in the standards used to determine if a donated kidney should be transplanted or discarded.

An invited commentary that accompanied Tuesday’s study mentions that Europe uses an “old-for-old” approach, meaning an older kidney that may otherwise be rejected, might be a good fit for an older patient. Biopsies that are commonly done in the US may not be the best predictor of organ quality. Biopsies are less frequently performed in Europe. The commentary also suggests that regulations will need to change.

“It is recognized that the overly stringent and restrictive process of monitoring transplant programs in the United States has resulted in many transplant programs taking a risk averse approach,” wrote Dr. Ryoichi Maenosono and Dr. Stefan G. Tullius of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the commentary. “Hospital administrators and patients alike are attracted by superficial five-star ranking approaches that are easy to read but not necessarily reflective of the approach of individual programs aiming to provide their patients on waiting lists with the best opportunities.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been considering eliminating some regulations that put these transplant programs funds at risk if the programs don’t meet expected outcomes.

Kidney disease is a costly problem for the United States. The government currently spends more than $114 billion each year on patients with kidney disease. According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, That is one-fifth of the spending of all Medicare dollars.

The US is throwing away at least 3,500 donated kidneys every year, study finds

There are currently 93,000 people in the United States on a waiting list for a donated kidney, yet at least 3,500 donated kidneys are discarded every year, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The lack of organs for kidney failure patients is a major public health problem and one that President Donald Trump addressed in July when he signed an executive order promising to transform kidney care in this country.

More than 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and roughly 5,000 die each year while on the kidney waiting list. That’s about 12 people each day, making kidney disease the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.

In this new study, researchers looked at the number of deceased donors with organs offered to kidney transplant centers between 2004 and 2014. Over that time period, 156,089 kidneys were donated; 128,102 were transplanted; 27,987 were discarded. That means more than 17% of kidneys donated in this United States were discarded.

Since the end of the study period in 2014, the number of discarded kidneys has increased. In 2016, 3,631 donated kidneys — about 20% — were discarded, according to the researchers.

In comparison, in France, only about 9% of donated kidneys were discarded during the study period. The difference was because, in France, doctors were more willing to use older kidneys and kidneys from people who had other ailments such as diabetes or hypertension.

Research has found that new treatment approaches to manage the complications of donated organs make the transplant even of a lesser quality organ, a better option than dialysis, but US policies haven’t kept up.

One of the main drivers of this trend, the authors say, is that there is “intense regulatory scrutiny of US transplant programs, which may lose credentials if their one-year death and graft failure outcomes exceed predicted outcomes.” In other words, if the organ isn’t in the best shape, transplant centers may be risk averse and reluctant to take a chance.

There are guidelines, but there is no one universally applied method to determine which kidneys will be transplanted and which kidneys will be discarded.

There are several other reasons a kidney would be discarded. It could be in bad shape, there could be an abnormal biopsy on the organ, or some other physical issues. But there are also financial and regulatory reasons that they get discarded. An older kidney or one with comorbidities costs more to transplant, because a patient is hospitalized longer and it takes a patient longer to recover.

Some regions discard more kidneys than others, the study said, suggesting that a decision to keep or discard a donated organ is at least somewhat subjective.

A 2016 study of discarded kidneys deemed unfit for transplant was reviewed by a panel of transplant experts that found as many as 50% of the kidneys that were discarded could have been transplanted, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

To address this issue, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) — which governs the transplant system in the United States — created a kidney donor profile index that’s been used since 2012. The score predicts the survival of deceased donor kidneys. In 2014, UNOS changed the kidney allocation system so that lower quality kidneys can be offered to a wider region, but neither of these initiatives changed the rate of discarded organs. The number of discarded organs has actually risen to 20%, according to a study published in January 2019. It was 14.9% in 2006, and in some regions the discard rate is even higher than 30%.

For years, kidney advocacy organizations have called for a change in the standards used to determine if a donated kidney should be transplanted or discarded.

An invited commentary that accompanied Tuesday’s study mentions that Europe uses an “old-for-old” approach, meaning an older kidney that may otherwise be rejected, might be a good fit for an older patient. Biopsies that are commonly done in the US may not be the best predictor of organ quality. Biopsies are less frequently performed in Europe. The commentary also suggests that regulations will need to change.

“It is recognized that the overly stringent and restrictive process of monitoring transplant programs in the United States has resulted in many transplant programs taking a risk averse approach,” wrote Dr. Ryoichi Maenosono and Dr. Stefan G. Tullius of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the commentary. “Hospital administrators and patients alike are attracted by superficial five-star ranking approaches that are easy to read but not necessarily reflective of the approach of individual programs aiming to provide their patients on waiting lists with the best opportunities.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been considering eliminating some regulations that put these transplant programs funds at risk if the programs don’t meet expected outcomes.

Kidney disease is a costly problem for the United States. The government currently spends more than $114 billion each year on patients with kidney disease. According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, That is one-fifth of the spending of all Medicare dollars.

Record number say ‘yes,’ save lives with organ donations

SALT LAKE CITY — Over 20 people donated for organ transplants in May, according to Donor Connect, which operates the “Yes” Utah organ donation campaign, setting a record for donors in a single month.

The previous record was 16 people and 71 organs were recovered from the record-21 donors last month.

Those organs were transplanted into 71 individuals, who were waiting for lifesaving operations.

More information and registration can be found here.

Son donates part of liver to mom before Mother’s Day

MURRAY, Utah – It’s the ultimate Mother’s Day gift – a Utah son donated a part of his liver to his mother.

Using 3D technology, surgeons at Intermountain Healthcare completed the first left lobe living liver transplant in Utah, but the historical accomplishment paled in comparison to the touching story of a son who saved his mom.

Gwen Finlayson has been living with autoimmune hepatitis for 27 years and doctors have always told her she needed a transplant. However, at 63-years-old with relatively good health, the chances of her getting one from the transplant list were slim, until her son, Brandon Finlayson, came to her and said let me do this for you.

“How do you respond to that? This is my son. It was hard,” Gwen Finlayson said.

“We were seeing it was kind of her only opportunity, the only chance that she’d have,” Brandon Finlayson said.

It took some convincing, but Finlayson agreed especially when she learned Intermountain Healthcare was using 3D technology to practice the surgery ahead of time. Transplant surgeon, Manuel Rodriguez, performed the surgery.

“It’s not the same to see the image of someone in a screen then when you can hold it and turn it and look at the angles you`re going to be working on,” Rodriguez said.

Three months after the surgery in February, both mom and son are feeling better than ever.

“To see her with energy and to see her back doing the things she used to be able to do, it’s really exciting,” Brandon Finlayson said.

However, they still disagree on one major detail.

“It’s not lost on me that he would risk his life for me. Who does that? Who does that, you know? To me, that’s the definition of a hero,” Gwen Finlayson said.

“No, no. I think I’m a son,” Brandon Finlayson said.

Worried about her deteriorating health, Finlayson used to force herself to live in the present.

“I finally have a healthy liver. That’s not to say those 27 years weren’t great. I’ve had a great life but this gives me so much hope, so much hope,” she said.

However, thanks to her son’s gift, she’s able to look forward to the future.

To learn more about how you can become a donor, visit yesutah.org.

Son donates part of liver to mom before Mother’s Day

MURRAY, Utah – It’s the ultimate Mother’s Day gift – a Utah son donated a part of his liver to his mother.

Using 3D technology, surgeons at Intermountain Healthcare completed the first left lobe living liver transplant in Utah, but the historical accomplishment paled in comparison to the touching story of a son who saved his mom.

Gwen Finlayson has been living with autoimmune hepatitis for 27 years and doctors have always told her she needed a transplant. However, at 63-years-old with relatively good health, the chances of her getting one from the transplant list were slim, until her son, Brandon Finlayson, came to her and said let me do this for you.

“How do you respond to that? This is my son. It was hard,” Gwen Finlayson said.

“We were seeing it was kind of her only opportunity, the only chance that she’d have,” Brandon Finlayson said.

It took some convincing, but Finlayson agreed especially when she learned Intermountain Healthcare was using 3D technology to practice the surgery ahead of time. Transplant surgeon, Manuel Rodriguez, performed the surgery.

“It’s not the same to see the image of someone in a screen then when you can hold it and turn it and look at the angles you`re going to be working on,” Rodriguez said.

Three months after the surgery in February, both mom and son are feeling better than ever.

“To see her with energy and to see her back doing the things she used to be able to do, it’s really exciting,” Brandon Finlayson said.

However, they still disagree on one major detail.

“It’s not lost on me that he would risk his life for me. Who does that? Who does that, you know? To me, that’s the definition of a hero,” Gwen Finlayson said.

“No, no. I think I’m a son,” Brandon Finlayson said.

Worried about her deteriorating health, Finlayson used to force herself to live in the present.

“I finally have a healthy liver. That’s not to say those 27 years weren’t great. I’ve had a great life but this gives me so much hope, so much hope,” she said.

However, thanks to her son’s gift, she’s able to look forward to the future.

To learn more about how you can become a donor, visit yesutah.org.

Univ. of Iowa Hospitals Joins Lawsuit Over New Organ Donation Policy

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have joined a lawsuit against a proposal to distribute donated livers to areas far away.

Right now, donated organs go to recipients nearby. But a new policy would distribute them based on need — meaning they would get shipped farther away.

The United Network for Organ Sharing says the idea is to reduce wait times for patients.

The University of Iowa Hospitals’ transplant director says places like Iowa have high rates of organ donation and the new policy would hurt states with rural populations.

The policy was set to go into effect Tuesday, but a spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services says they’ve been directed to hold off until mid-May to give the court more time to look into the issue.

Patient’s new kidney delivered by drone

The University of Maryland Medical Center received a historic delivery at its Shock Trauma heliport last week: a human kidney, delivered by drone.

The first-of-its-kind delivery was made by the LG-1,000, a 50-pound drone created by the university’s School of Medicine specifically to transport organs, CBS Baltimore reports.

The kidney was successfully transplanted into the patient, a 44-year-old woman who had been on dialysis for eight years, after the April 19 drone flight. The drone monitored the organ’s status during the 2.8-mile journey from the Living Legacy Foundation in west Baltimore.

Researchers say using drones for delivery could revolutionize the organ transplant process, in which delays sometimes cause an organ to be unviable.

Before the flight, researchers conducted test flights with blood tubes and eventually a healthy but non-viable kidney, USA Today reports.

“There remains a woeful disparity between the number of recipients on the organ transplant waiting list and the total number of transplantable organs,” project head Joseph Scalea said in a statement. “This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation.”

Scalea, one of the surgeons who carried out the transplant, praised the “outstanding collaboration” between “surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration , organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient.” The current system, he said, takes “too long, it is unsafe and it is way too expensive.” (Read more drone stories.)

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Best Friends Recovering Together After Kidney Transplant

PELLA, Iowa — When Scott Stephens’ health began to fail, his best friend stood by his side. Six weeks ago, Stephens and Aaron Eversaul underwent a kidney transplant. Eversaul gave up one of his to help his longtime friend suffering from a genetic kidney disease.

“You want to do all the things you wanted to do when you were feeling good,” smiles Stephens. “I get better and better every single week. I feel strength coming back.” For the first time in years, he has begun working out again. Before he didn’t have the strength to do so. He was in kidney failure and on dialysis. Finally, he’s beginning to feel like himself again.

In March, his friend of 40 years donated his kidney. “If I had another kidney, I would do it again,” says Eversaul.

Doctors say the two are on pace to a full recovery. It will be another four to six weeks before they are back to full strength, just in time for fishing season. “Hopefully somewhere around mid to late summer when we are fishing and we take our shirts off people don`t get scared and run away,” laughs Stephens. He says looking forward to these moments makes the years of painful waiting worth it.

According to the Iowa Donor Network, roughly 600 Iowans are waiting for a transplant.

Iowa Donor Network Working to Keep Momentum Going Following Historic Year

ALTOONA, Iowa — The Iowa Donor Network is celebrating a significant milestone. Last year, the number of registered organ and tissue donors reached 73-percent. That’s a record for the state and more than 20-percent above the national average. Now the organization is looking to keep the momentum going. However, it knows the decision to help give others life isn’t always easy for some.

“I think a lot of people think, ‘oh I’ll let someone else be the donor, someone else can do it,'” says Heather Butterfield, a spokesperson for the Iowa Donor Network. “The reality is we need everyone signing up on the registry because there is such a need right now.”

In 2018, the Iowa Donor Network recorded 74 organ donors gave 248 organs for a transplant, the most ever in state history. Despite the success, the gap between the number of Iowans on the state’s organ transplant waiting list and the number of organs available is large. Right now, about 600 Iowans on awaiting a transplant and are waiting on average of three to fives years before receiving a transplant, that’s even if they get one at all.

The Iowa Donor Network is aiming to increase the number of registered donors by educating the public on separating fact from fiction when it comes to organ donation and how it works. Butterfield says that involves breaking down the misconceptions of donations.

“The oldest donor we`ve had was 105- years- old and was a tissue donor,” she says. “Even for  organ donors. One in three organ donors are over the age of 50. So, never rule yourself out because of age or medical history,” she says.

Butterfield says age is not necessarily a factor when it comes to saving lives. Her 20-year-old sister died unexpectedly in 2012 and was able give the gift of life of dozens others. She’s now committing herself to honoring her sister by sharing why becoming a registered donor matters.

“When I go out and talk to the public, I always encourage them to just think about if you or someone in your life was told you need a transplant or you are going to die. You would hope that someone would give to them.”

For more information on how you can register to become a donor click here.

Family Announces Baby ‘passed away in our arms’ While Awaiting Liver Transplant

MILWAUKEE — The family of Marcus Albers, the 5-month-old baby who was awaiting a liver transplant at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, announced Wednesday the baby “passed away peacefully in our arms, with his caring doctors, loving nurses and amazing staff by his side.”

Marcus suffered from Immunodeficiency 47 — a rare genetic disorder — with just 12 known cases in the world passed down through the mother. Only baby boys are at risk of showing symptoms.

His parents, Whitney and Tony Albers, said April 2 Marcus had just weeks to live without a donor — making a public plea for help — as their baby’s liver failed.

Marcus Albers

The disease attacks the liver, giving patients just weeks to live. Unable to donate part of their own livers Marcus’ parents found a donor, but shortly before the transplant was scheduled for April 2, they received devastating news: it was not a perfect match. They were back to square one.

The family issued this statement Wednesday:

“Thank you to the thousands of people who graciously volunteered to be a living donor for baby Marcus. We want to especially thank the individual(s) that were screened and selected for transplant, but ultimately did not qualify. There was no disappointment from us. The donor’s health was just as important as Marcus’. However, our disappointment does lie with the living donor screening process. There should have been a better system in place to handle the large volume of selfless people attempting to call and be screened. This would have made it more likely that Marcus would have matched with multiple qualified living donors. Due to the limitations of this screening process, Marcus became too ill for surgery while waiting for matches. He passed away peacefully in our arms with his caring Doctors, loving nurses, and amazing staff by his side.”

“Our son would have been so proud at the overwhelming attention given to children waiting for organs. Unfortunately, his organs were not healthy enough to donate. Please consider adding your name to the Wisconsin Donor Registry at donatelifewisconsin.org to help other children like Marcus. He has touched so many people. Keep him and his brother Dominic in your thoughts and prayers. All of you will be kept in ours. Thank you again.

-Anthony, Whitney, and Dominic Albers”