Never Too Old to Be an Organ Donor

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Old age is not necessarily a barrier to kidney donation.

A new study has found a kidney transplanted from a deceased 79-year-old can be as effective as one from a person 30 years younger.

Generally, guidelines classify donors older than 50 as “extended criteria donors,” but shortages have led to using these donors more frequently.

Italian researchers retrospectively studied 647 kidney transplants, grouping the donors according to whether they were in their 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s. Recipients were at most seven years older or younger than the donors. The study is in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

In an average follow-up of five years, they found that the rate of unusable donor kidneys and the long-term outcomes of recipients varied little among the first three age groups — around 18 percent of the organs had to be discarded, and the five-year survival was about 88 percent

With donors over 80, survival outcomes were similar, but the discard rate increased sharply to 48 percent.

The senior author, Dr. Luigi Biancone, an associate professor of nephrology at the University of Turin, said that using the elderly obviously increases the number of available organs.

“Transplanting kidneys from elderly donors to elderly patients,” he added, “is an advantage for these patients in long-term survival compared with remaining on dialysis.”