Too many donor kidneys are discarded in U.S. before transplantation

A new study finds kidneys discarded as low-quality in the U.S are similar to kidneys transplanted with acceptable outcomes in France.

When kidneys are removed from deceased organ donors in the United States, they are often subjected to “procurement biopsies” and are discarded if certain abnormalities are seen in the kidney tissue. However, a large portion of the discarded kidneys would function acceptably if transplanted, according to a new study from a team led by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine and the Paris Translational Research Center for Organ Transplantation.

Artistic rendering of a cross section of a kidney.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the researchers analyzed biopsy data on a series of 1,103 kidneys discarded in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016. They found that 493 of these kidneys could be matched, in terms of biopsy-evaluated quality and other donor characteristics, to 493 kidneys that were actually transplanted in France, where transplant practice is less restrictive.

The researchers then examined the performance of these 493 kidneys transplanted in France, and found that their survival rates were acceptable, indicating that many donor kidneys in the U.S. are being discarded unnecessarily.

“These results highlight a lost transplant opportunity in the U.S., and provide a strong rationale for organ procurement organizations to reduce the practice of obtaining biopsies of deceased donor kidneys,” says study lead author Peter Reese, an associate professor of renal-electrolyte and hypertension and epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine and a kidney transplant physician at the Penn Transplant Institute.

This story is by Lauren Ingeno. Read more at Penn Medicine News.