Johns Hopkins University Study Finds Huge Racial Gap in Living Donor Kidney Transplants

More than 90,000 people in the United States are on a list awaiting donors for a kidney transplant. About one third of those on the list are African Americans. Yet in 2011, 5,771 living donor kidney transplants were performed in the U.S. and only 813 patients (14 percent) receiving new kidneys were African Americans.

A new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examined racial data on 247,707 patients who registered for kidney transplants at 275 hospitals in the United States from 1995 to 2007. The results showed that African Americans had at least a 35 percent less chance of receiving a kidney transplant from a living donor at all 275 transplant centers. At some centers, African American patients were 76 percent less likely to receive living-donor transplants.

The racial difference may be the result of the fact that few compatible living donors are available for African American patients due to a large presence of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in the Black community which precludes people from being donors. Also, there may be a reluctance among many African Americans to donate a kidney due to a mistrust of the medical profession. The authors of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, recommend that an effort be undertaken to educate the African American community on kidney donorship.

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  1. This is a question in which a comment may be implied. Must the race of the donor and recipient be the same in order for a kidney transplant to occur ? I wonder if the genetic mixing of the races both in the past as well as in the present might make compatibility more likely across “racial” lines than might be assumed.

  2. Yes, I agree with the comment made by Mary Northington, are only black individual’s kidneys compatible with one another. If not then we definitely have a problem in that I thought who ever was next in line got the next transplant for whatever organ, so how is race playing a role here.

    • Blacks and Whites can receive kidney donations from people of other races. But this article is talking about “living” donor transplants. These are African Americans who seek out a friend or relative willing to donate one of their kidneys to a patient.

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