Live kidney donors do not die sooner: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Healthy Americans who donated a kidney were not at higher risk of dying afterward, which may reassure potential donors and help shorten the long waiting list for an organ, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The conclusion was drawn from the 80,347 live American organ donors who have donated one of their two kidneys -- often to a relative -- since April 1, 1994, and who were tracked for as long as 12 years after the surgery.

Their fates were compared to a matched group of 9,000 non-donors participating in a government health study.

“Surgical mortality did not change during the 15-year period (between 1994 and 2009), despite differences in surgical practice and donor selection,” Dr. Dorry Segev of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There was a slightly higher mortality risk for kidney donors in the first 90 days after the surgery, during which 25 died. But in subsequent follow-up periods the death rate among donors matched, or was sometimes lower, than non-donors’.

Male donors had statistically higher mortality rates than women within one year of the surgery, as did African-American and Hispanic donors compared to whites.

There are some 80,000 Americans waiting for a kidney. Out of 17,000 kidney transplants performed in the United States each year, more than 6,000 come from living donors.

“It is incumbent on the transplantation community to show that these lives are not saved at the cost of placing the donors at risk ...,” Segev wrote.

“We have shown that live kidney donation is safe and free from significant long-term excess mortality,” he wrote.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman