Healthy older adults can donate kidneys

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Kidney transplants performed using organs from live donors over the age of 70 years are safe for both donors and recipients, according to a recent study.

Kidney transplants performed using organs from live donors over the age of 70 years are safe for both donors and recipients, according to a recent study.

Although the authors found that kidneys from older donors were more likely to fail within 10 years of transplant when compared with kidneys from donors ages 50 to 59 years (33.3% failure rate vs. 21.6%), patients who received older donated kidneys were no more likely to die within a decade of transplantation than those whose kidney donors were between 50 and 59.

"A lot of people come up to me and say, 'I wish I could donate a kidney, but I’m too old,' " said senior author Dorry Segev, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. "What our study says is that if you’re in good health and you’re over 70, you’re not too old to donate a kidney to your child, your spouse, your friend, anybody."

Results of the study, published online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (Oct. 27, 2011), describe analysis of records from the 219 living people over age 70 who donated a kidney in the United States between 1990 and 2010. The team matched those donors with healthy people in the same age group and found that the donors actually lived longer than those who had both of their kidneys.

Dr. Segev attributes their longevity to the probability that people who donated kidneys are very healthy to begin with or surgeons wouldn’t allow them to give up an organ. Also, after donation, they may be more likely than the typical person their age to regularly visit a physician and work hard to stay healthy.

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