Study Finds Too Few Chronic Kidney Disease & Dialysis Patients Being Referred For Kidney Transplant

Most Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients know that a successful Kidney Transplant may improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of dying. In addition, one of the key benefits of Kidney Transplantation is having more freedom and not having to undergo hours of Dialysis weekly. There are many conditions which may prevent patients from being eligible for a Kidney Transplant such as active or recently treated cancer, a chronic illness that could lead to death within a few years, poorly controlled mental illness, severe obesity, inability to remember to take medications, current drug or alcohol abuse, and a history of poor compliance with Dialysis Treatments. However, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that one of the leading challenges preventing Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis patients from receiving a Kidney Transplant is not being referred to a Kidney Transplant Facility for evaluation.

Researchers at Emory University found that only about one (1) in four (4) patients with End-Stage Renal Disease in Georgia were referred for a Kidney Transplant evaluation within one (1) year of starting Dialysis. News Medical reported that, "Patients receiving Dialysis typically require a referral for Kidney Transplant Evaluation at a Kidney Transplant Center to begin the transplantation process." 

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While some argue whether the Emory University study represents a national crisis, Dr. Dorry Segev suggested, "Clearly this study shows that we do have a referral problem, and it's probably not just in Georgia. But even when patients do get a referral, it's not enough to just hand them a piece of paper... Patients need to be offered education about the transplant process, and navigation assistance to help them get through the system, and encouragement." 

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Factors associated with lower referral for transplantation included older age and Nonprofit Facility status. These study findings highlight a need for more standardized guidelines for educational discussions regarding treatment options which should include Kidney Transplantation. More directly patients should know the following:

1.) Your Nephrologist will not automatically put you on the Kidney Transplant Waiting List.

2.) If you want to be considered for a Kidney Transplant, you must contact a Kidney Transplant Center and ask for a Transplant Evaluation. Ask your Nephrologist for a referral to a Kidney Transplant Center and contact your private insurance to help determine which centers are contracted with your plan.

3.) Only a Transplant Team can tell you that you are definitely eligible (or not eligible) for a Kidney Transplant. It is not automatic. 

4.) You can contact one or more Transplant Centers and start to be evaluated when it seems likely that you will need Dialysis within two to three years. 

5.) After your evaluation is done and you get on the Kidney Transplant Waiting List, credit for waiting time starts when your kidney function drops to less than about 20 percent.

6.) Medicare will pay 100% of the hospital charges, and 80% of Medicare’s allowable rate for outpatient care like doctors’ fees. Medicare will also pay for a living kidney donor to be evaluated, but your donor may have costs that aren’t covered like travel or time off of work. 

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According to DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc., "Long waiting times—often years—are very common for Kidney Transplants from Cadaver (Deceased) Donors." They also noted, "42% of kidney transplants came from Living Kidney Donors." Therefore, if you do not already have a matching Living Kidney Donor, consider signing up for the Find A Kidney Donor Campaign (click here) to effectively share your story with a wider audience and improve your chances of connecting with Altruistic (Selfless) Living Kidney Donors.

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