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Board approves pilot study on access to kidney transplants among minority and disadvantaged candidates

Published on: Friday, November 21, 2003

Richmond, Va. -- The OPTN/UNOS Board of Directors today approved a pilot study to assess the impact of beginning the waiting time for a kidney transplant at the time a candidate first begins dialysis or meets a standard medical definition of kidney failure.

The study is intended to improve transplant access particularly among ethnic minorities and economically disadvantaged people on dialysis who may not be immediately evaluated for a kidney transplant. Currently, waiting time begins when a transplant center evaluates and accepts a transplant candidate, but some people do not undergo an evaluation until months or years after beginning dialysis. Minority and disadvantaged patients often experience greater difficulty obtaining access to transplantation.

"We must continually seek to provide equitable access for everyone who can benefit from a transplant," said OPTN/UNOS President Russell Wiesner, M.D. "This study will help us determine whether we can improve equity."

Waiting time is one of several key factors influencing which patients are given first consideration for donated kidneys. Other major factors include blood and tissue matching between donor and recipient and whether the candidate is a child and/or highly immunosensitized.

The study will involve the voluntary participation of one or more organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and the transplant programs they serve. A network of 59 OPOs coordinates deceased organ donor recovery nationwide. The results of the voluntary study will be reported to OPTN/UNOS committees for further consideration.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) is operated under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Division of Transplantation by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). The OPTN brings together medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy.