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Study To Help Ensure Good Health Of Kidney Donors

Armen Hareyan's picture

Ohio State University Medical Center

Kidney Donors

With the availability of more advanced drugs that reduce the potential for organ rejection, it's now possible for a larger segment of the population to become kidney donors.

While it's no longer necessary for those in need of a kidney to depend on a perfect match, more attention is being turned to the health of the donor.

Ohio State University Medical Center and a handful of the nation's leading transplant centers are in the midst of a study that will help determine how donors' physical health is impacted after a transplant.

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For up to three years, researchers will be monitoring 200 kidney donors and recording their kidney function and risk factors for heart disease and strokes. Smaller, retrospective studies have shown about 30 percent of donors will develop high blood pressure.

"This is the first, large prospective study looking at donors for an extended period," said Dr. Todd Pesavento, medical director of kidney transplantation and principal investigator for the study at OSU Medical Center.

"We really don't have any scientific, prospective, longterm studies that show donors lead healthy lives, although it's generally felt that being a donor is safe and donors have a normal lifespan," said Pesavento. "This study will give us a good indication of how kidney donation affects the donors' physical health and if there are any steps we need to take to make sure donors live healthy lives with good kidney function."

Each of the 200 study participants will be partnered with a sibling, spouse or friend who will act as a normal control for comparison during the study. Over the course of three years, the pairs will receive medical check-ups and screenings to help detect any medical changes.

Pesavento said immunosuppressive drugs have reduced organ rejection rates from 40-50 percent 10 years ago to about 5 percent today. "That's good because it allows more people to become eligible donors."

Approximately 70,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant, according to Pesavento, and about 17,000 transplants are performed each year in the United States. "Even if we added no new patients to the waiting list, it would take four to five years for those patients to be transplanted," he said. "Donors greatly improve the lives of the recipients. We want to ensure it's a good long-term experience for the donor as well."