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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2003 Jan;14(1):187-96.

Kidney transplantation in the elderly: a decision analysis.

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  • 1Division of Nephrology, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Transplantation offers superior life expectancy and quality of life compared with dialysis in young patients with end-stage renal failure. However, the initial risks of mortality and morbidity are high. This study used a decision analysis model to evaluate the costs and benefits of kidney transplantation versus continued dialysis for older patients with renal failure. A decision analytic model comparing cadaveric renal transplantation to continued hemodialysis treatment was developed. The base case considered a theoretical cohort of patients aged 65 yr without known comorbidity or contraindications to transplantation who would have to wait 2 yr for a cadaveric transplant. Separate models were constructed for patients with diabetes or cardiovascular disease and for patients receiving an organ after a variety of wait-list times. Probability, utility, and survival data were obtained from published reports and renal registries. For 65-yr-old patients, quality-adjusted life expectancy increased by 1.1 quality-adjusted life years (QALY) at an incremental cost of $67,778 per QALY. Assuming a 2-yr wait-listed time, transplantation remained economically attractive for 70-yr-old patients (incremental cost effectiveness [ICE], $79,359 per QALY) but was less economically attractive for those over 75 yr of age (ICE, $99,553) or for 70-yr-olds with either cardiovascular disease or diabetes (ICE, $126,751 and $161,090 per QALY, respectively). The analytic results were sensitive only to the time spent waiting for the graft. The cost-effectiveness reduced such that the costs associated with one QALY were in excess of $100,000/yr when the probability of a complication was > or = 50% per 3-mo cycle and when the utility of transplantation fell below 0.62. If available within a timely period, transplantation may offer substantial clinical benefits to older patients at a reasonable financial cost. Prolonged waiting times dramatically decrease the clinical benefits and economic attractiveness of transplantation, suggesting that living donor transplantation may be of particular benefit in this population.

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