It had previously been thought that people of senior age could be at serious risk when donating a kidney, however in Washington, DC a study in the Clinical Journal Of The American Society Nephrology, also known as CJASN, has claimed that healthy people over 70 years of age can indeed safely donate a kidney. The downside being that these kidneys will not last as long as those that are donated by younger donors.
As shortages in transplant organs have become more and more common waiting times have increased along with the obvious risk of dying. To combat this patients are turning to some of their older relatives as donors which has raised the question of whether there should be an upper age limit for donation.
Jonathan Berger, MD, Dorry Segev, MD, PhD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine), took it upon himself to research into the safety of this further and studied 219 healthy adults that were all over 70 years of age who had donated one of their kidneys and compared them with healthy elderly people of the same age who had not donated their organs. They wanted to see that if the act of donating a kidney at this age had any impact on the length or quality of life and if the donated kidney was as good as organs from younger donors. To do this they also compared the kidney health of recipients of older donor kidneys with those that had younger donor's kidneys and others who had kidneys from deceased donors.
It was found that a healthy individual of over 70 years of age was no more likely to die with 1, 5 or 10 years after donating a kidney than a normal healthy individual of the same age that had not been an organ donor. In fact, surprisingly they actually found that the death rates of the donors were lower. However, they did find that the organs from elderly donors were not as long-lasting as kidneys donated from younger living donors but they did last as long as younger deceased donors.
"It is important for individuals over 70 who want to donate a kidney to be aware that many have done so safely. Many older adults - and even many physicians - are not even aware that this occurs," said Dr. Segev. "But it is important for transplant centres to continue to scrutinize all donor candidates, particularly older ones," he added.
The research raises interesting questions as to whether an upper age limit is really needed or if in fact this now proves that older donors could be the answer to the shortage of organs available for transplant and a way to reduce waiting lists which would lead to a saving of lives.