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N Engl J Med. 1999 Dec 2;341(23):1725-30.

Comparison of mortality in all patients on dialysis, patients on dialysis awaiting transplantation, and recipients of a first cadaveric transplant.

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  • 1U.S. Renal Data System Coordinating Center, Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48103, USA.



The extent to which renal allotransplantation - as compared with long-term dialysis - improves survival among patients with end-stage renal disease is controversial, because those selected for transplantation may have a lower base-line risk of death. In an attempt to distinguish the effects of patient selection from those of transplantation itself, we conducted a longitudinal study of mortality in 228,552 patients who were receiving long-term dialysis for end-stage renal disease. Of these patients, 46,164 were placed on a waiting list for transplantation, 23,275 of whom received a first cadaveric transplant between 1991 and 1997. The relative risk of death and survival were assessed with time-dependent nonproportional-hazards analysis, with adjustment for age, race, sex, cause of end-stage renal disease, geographic region, time from first treatment for end-stage renal disease to placement on the waiting list, and year of initial placement on the list.


Among the various subgroups, the standardized mortality ratio for the patients on dialysis who were awaiting transplantation (annual death rate, 6.3 per 100 patient-years) was 38 to 58 percent lower than that for all patients on dialysis (annual death rate, 16.1 per 100 patient-years). The relative risk of death during the first 2 weeks after transplantation was 2.8 times as high as that for patients on dialysis who had equal lengths of follow-up since placement on the waiting list, but at 18 months the risk was much lower (relative risk, 0.32; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.30 to 0.35; P<0.001). The likelihood of survival became equal in the two groups within 5 to 673 days after transplantation in all the subgroups of patients we examined. The long-term mortality rate was 48 to 82 percent lower among transplant recipients (annual death rate, 3.8 per 100 patient-years) than patients on the waiting list, with relatively larger benefits among patients who were 20 to 39 years old, white patients, and younger patients with diabetes.


Among patients with end-stage renal disease, healthier patients are placed on the waiting list for transplantation, and long-term survival is better among those on the waiting list who eventually undergo transplantation.

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