New research is showing that many donated kidneys are being discarded in the United States when they could be used to save lives. According to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, the U.S. throws out almost 18 percent of the kidneys donated annually, totaling about 3,500 donated kidneys each year. There are currently more than 93,000 people on waiting lists to receive one and about 5,000 people die annually awaiting a kidney transplant.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Network Open website shows that most of those people may have had multiple opportunities to receive a transplant, but their transplant team turned down the organ without the patient’s knowledge. Because a transplant team has just one hour to accept or decline a donated organ, waitlisted patients usually aren’t consulted about the decision. Once a team passes on the donated organ, the offer moves to the transplant team of the next patient on the list.
After looking at data that included all 14 million kidney offers made between 2008 and 2015 to more than 350,000 waitlisted patients in the United States, the researchers found that the vast majority of organs, 84 percent, were declined at least once, including organs that seemed a perfect match between donor and recipient. Of the 280,041 patients who received at least one offer, 30 percent (approximately 85,000 people) either died on the waitlist or were removed from the waitlist before receiving a kidney.
According to the study, patients who died or were removed from the list had received a median of 16 offers of donated kidneys while waitlisted for an organ. Some of those offers were made within the first three months of being on the list. The available organs were likely rejected because the transplant team determined they weren’t of sufficient quality or wouldn’t meet a patient’s long-term needs. The study suggests that these rejected kidneys would been good enough for the patient to come off the waiting list and would have extended his or her life.