Kidney transplants: does ethnicity affect patients’ chances?

According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), some ethnic groups can be found at the bottom, or missing, from waitlists for kidney transplants. Though the exact causes are not known, experts have a variety of theories and are working hard to address this issue.

At the University of Washington in Seattle, Yoshio Hall, M.D., and his colleagues were determined to fi nd some answers. In their study, they surveyed 503,090 non-elderly adults from different ethnic backgrounds who had started dialysis between the years of 1995 and 2006. In 2008, the researchers had some answers. Of all waitlisted patients, white non-Hispanics were 40% more likely to receive a transplant than African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and others minorities. Also of note, the rates of deceased-donor transplantations after dialysis were lowest in American Indians/Alaska Natives (2.4%) and highest in non-Hispanic whites (5.9%) and Asians (6.4%).

Today, the reasons behind these discrepancies are still not completely clear, which highlights the need for further investigation. Some theories point to socioeconomic factors, while others suggest a lack of organ availability, or even cultural isolation.

Dr. Hall believes that more research and understanding could result in the reduction of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities for kidney transplants in the future.