Proposed rule shift would benefit some kidney patients on waiting list for transplant

Trib Live | By Luis Fábregas

Photo: Warren Whitlock of the West End, gets a dialysis treatment at Allegheny General Hospital Saturday, September 29, 2012. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Dialysis patients who were not informed about kidney transplant possibilities could move up on the waiting list through a proposed rule that would give credit for time spent on dialysis.

The proposal addresses a long-standing problem: The failure of doctors and dialysis clinics to disclose that a kidney transplant could add about 10 years to a patient’s life.

“Patients often get referred late for transplant,” said Dr. John Friedewald, a transplant nephrologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and chair of the Kidney Transplantation Committee of United Network for Organ Sharing. “Getting a transplant sooner is better. We realized that some patients were being underserved because they weren’t being referred before they started dialysis.”

The proposed rule change is part of a broader policy review of kidney allocations by UNOS, which oversees allocation of transplant organs in the United States. Kidneys are by far the most needed organ with more than 93,000 people waiting for kidney transplantation nationwide. About
10 percent of those candidates die each year while waiting.

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