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Study: 25% of willing kidney donors were too obese

Living kidney donors are turned away at BMIs of 35 or higher

May 16, 2012

Researchers have identified a new public health challenge: the nation's growing obesity problem may be hindering organ donation, too.

At the North Shore-LIJ Health System Transplant Center in New York, nearly 25% of willing kidney donors were excluded because they had a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or above, according to a study presented at a National Kidney Foundation (NKF) meeting. Most organ transplant centers exclude living donors with a BMI of 35 or above since previous research suggests unsuccessful outcomes for both the donor and recipient, although there are no established national criteria.

Of 104 potential living kidney donors seen at North Shore-LIJ between 2008 and 2011:

  • 55% had a BMI of 30 or above (obese);
  • 37% had a BMI between 25 and 30 (overweight); and
  • 18% had a BMI of 25 or below (normal).

The overweight patients in the study were then referred to a North Shore-LIJ weight loss program and counseling, but only 13% were successful at losing weight.

"As the kidney transplant waiting list grows, there is a great need for living donors," NKF president Lynda Szczech said in a statement. "As a community, we need to identify ways to overcome this barrier so that we can increase our donor pool and end the wait for transplant.”

About 92,000 U.S. patients are waiting for a kidney donation (Fiore, MedPage Today, 5/11).

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