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Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010 Nov;5(11):2109-14. doi: 10.2215/CJN.03490410. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

Access to kidney transplantation among the elderly in the United States: a glass half full, not half empty.

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  • 1Division of Nephrology, Charité University Medicine, Campus Virchow Klinikum, Berlin, Germany.



Few elderly ESRD patients are ever wait-listed for deceased-donor transplantation (DDTX), and waiting list outcomes may not reflect access to transplantation in this group. Our objective was to determine longitudinal changes in access to transplantation among all elderly patients with ESRD, not just those wait-listed for DDTX.


Using data from the US Renal Data System, we determined changes in the adjusted likelihood of transplantation from any donor source as an indicator of access to transplantation among all incident ESRD patients aged 60 to 75 years between 1995 and 2006.


Access to transplantation doubled between 1995 and 2006 despite an apparent decrease in the likelihood of DDTX after wait-listing. A threefold increase in the likelihood of living-donor transplantation, including a 1.5-fold increase in living-donor transplantation after wait-listing, was a key factor that led to increased access to transplantation. When a lead-time bias related to the increased practice of placing patients on the waiting list before dialysis initiation in more recent years was accounted for, there was no decrease in the likelihood of DDTX after wait-listing. The likelihood of receiving a DDTX after placement on the waiting list was maintained by a threefold increase in expanded-criteria-donor transplantation and a 26% reduction in the risk for death on the waiting list.


Although transplantation remains infrequent, elderly patients were twice as likely to undergo transplantation in 2006 versus 1995. Elderly patients with ESRD should not be dissuaded from pursuing transplantation.

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