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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2008 Feb;19(2):349-55. Epub 2007 Dec 19.

Obesity impacts access to kidney transplantation.

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Department of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Current billing practices and mandates to report surgical outcomes are disincentives to surgical treatment of obese patients, who are at increased risk for longer hospital stays and higher complication rates. The objective of this study was to quantify the independent association between body mass index (BMI) and waiting time for kidney transplantation to identify potential provider bias against surgical treatment of the obese. A secondary data analysis was performed of a prospective cohort of 132,353 patients who were registered for kidney transplantation in the United States between 1995 and 2006. Among all patients awaiting kidney transplantation, the likelihood of receiving a transplant decreased with increasing degree of obesity, categorized by ranges of BMI (adjusted hazard ratios 0.96 for overweight, 0.93 for obese, 0.72 for severely obese, and 0.56 for morbidly obese, compared with a reference group of patients with normal BMI). Similarly, the likelihood of being bypassed when an organ became available increased in a graded manner with category of obesity (adjusted incidence rate ratio 1.02 for overweight, 1.05 for obese, 1.11 for severely obese, and 1.22 for morbidly obese). Although matching an available organ with an appropriate recipient requires clinical judgment, which could not be fully captured in this study, the observed differences are dramatic and warrant further studies to understand this effect better and to design a system that is less susceptible to unintended bias.

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