Friday, September 27, 2019

More on the shortage of transplantable kidneys

Here are some snips from the transcript of the Undark podcast,
Solving the Deadly Transplantable Kidney Shortage
This month: A penetrating look at the trials of patients with kidney failure, and the doctors working to make more lifesaving transplants possible.

In the U.S., there are 58 local organ procurement organizations, more commonly known as OPOs. When someone is dying in the hospital with no chance of recovery, doctors will call their local OPO and set the organ procurement process into motion. The donor will go into surgery, their organs will be collected and the OPO will work to distribute the organs to people on the local waitlist. But for years, journalists and independent researchers have said these OPOs are not getting as many organs as they should be. Numerous studies and investigations have claimed OPOS could be recovering more than twice as many organs as they do now, if they were to opt for organs that were less-than-perfect, but likely still good enough.
Just a few weeks ago, a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine looked at discard rates in France and in the United States. It found that OPOS in the U.S. discard at least 3,500 kidneys a year, nearly 20 percent of all deceased donor kidneys, as compared to 9 percent in France. These discarded kidneys are often from donors over 50 years old, or with curable diseases. But it’s hard to tell just how many organs we are missing out on because OPOS self-report their own numbers. And, according to a 2017 study published by the American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, some OPOS have even manipulated their numbers to appear better than they are.
In July, President Trump signed an executive order to launch an initiative called “Advancing American Kidney Health.” One of the plans is to order Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to reform the organ procurement process to increase the supply of transplantable kidneys
Kaitlin Benz: Highly complex because the transplant surgeons who decide whether or not to accept a less-than-perfect kidney have a lot to consider. The government evaluates the 261 transplant centers in the U.S. by their one-year post-op success rate, which generally ranges between 90 to 95 percent. Ideally, all of a program’s transplanted patients are still alive and well after a year, but that’s just not always going to happen. For their program to be considered successful, doctors need to have a high success rate, which means they have to closely consider how much risk they’re able to take on donor organs. What if they accept a less-than-perfect kidney and the patient dies six months later? Here’s Ron Gill.
Ron Gill: And so, ok, if I’m being measured on a one-year survival, I don’t want to take a kidney that has a greater risk of not working in a year. However, what’s dawning on us all is the comparator can’t be them not working as well. The comparator is the waiting list.
Kaitlin Benz: He says measuring success by one-year survival rates can disincentivize surgeons from even trying on those borderline, suboptimal kidneys that may not be perfect, but might give their patient a few more years of health and freedom than dialysis would.
Ron Gill: It kind of puts a stranglehold on innovation in my view. And many of us in the field feel that if you’re going to hold people to a very high standard and we keep losing so many people on the waiting list every year, what is it going to take to make that change? There are groups that are probably being punished for some of their lesser outcomes because they’ve taken greater risks. And again, we all probably made a mistake if we’re comparing their outcomes with other centers rather than comparing their outcomes with the waiting list.

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