Hundreds of Donor Kidneys That Could Save Lives Tossed Away Each Year


An article published on April 1, 2010, by MedlinePlus reports that each year hundreds of  kidneys are thrown away because they are found to be infected with Hepatitis C.  According to the article, since 1995, more than 3,500 have been discarded.

The use of such kidneys has been reported as controversial “due to a 1 percent difference in one-year survival and a 2 percent difference in three-year survival among these patients.”      

Dr. Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, the lead researcher of a published study dealing with this problem, determined that more than 1,000 of these discarded kidneys were from “what would be considered perfect donors.”

“Using hepatitis C-positive kidneys in people who are infected with the virus could help those with hepatitis C and also expand the organ supply for everyone,” Segev said.

Among patients with kidney failure, about 12 percent are infected with hepatitis C. These patients are at increased risk of death on dialysis compared with those without the virus, the researchers said.

According to the study, “Segev’s group found that one-third of the transplant centers in the United States do not use any kidneys infected with hepatitis C for hepatitis C-infected patients. On the other hand, 13 percent of transplant centers transplanted more than 50 percent of their hepatitis C-infected patients with kidneys infected with the disease.”

Having represented clients, who are in dire need of kidney transplantation, this study will hopefully go a long way toward a new awareness in the transplantation community that disposing of these critical organs makes no sense.

We are told stories by our clients of their desperate wait for the call from the transplant center.  We hear from others how sometimes 3 to 5 times a week they might get a call that ‘tonight might be the night – stay ready” – but the night comes and goes without the call to come to the hospital for their new kidney.

Kudos to Dr. Segev and his research team.  Hopefully the transplantation community will heed his advice and more patients will benefit by this rational approach to an ever-growing problem – a shortage of vital organs for transplantation.

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