Overweight Kidney Donors – Two Concerns

Are you an actual or a want-to-be living kidney donor who weighs too much?   If you are obese, you probably will be rejected as a donor until you lose weight.  If you have already donated and are too heavy, you face a higher risk for kidney disease than donors who maintain normal weight.  These concerns come from research presented in May at the National Kidney Foundation’s 2012 Spring Clinical Meetings.

Currently, over 92,000 people in the U. S. are waiting for a kidney donation.  About 10 die each day, sometimes after long periods on the waiting list.  The stringent criteria for donating exclude many willing people.  Most transplant centers will not accept an obese donor, someone with a body mass index (BMI) above 35.  The donation criteria are tough so that the health of the donor is not jeopardized during surgery or following donation.  Evidence of diabetes, hypertension, or obesity make future health complications more likely.

One study presented in May found that only 18% of the 104 potential donors at one transplant center from 2008 to 2011 had a normal BMI (less than 25).  The rest were overweight or obese.  Of the 45% who were obese, only  a few were able to lose enough weight to donate.  Despite high motivation to lose weight, the rest were unable to do so.  This high percentage of obese people who cannot donate is bad news for the many patients waiting for a kidney.

In a second study, researchers found that being overweight after donating, raised the donor’s risk of developing kidney disease.  One year after donation, donors with a BMI above 30 had decreased kidney function that still existed 10 years later.  Normal weight donors did not show this decrease.  Obese donors run even greater risks for kidney-related issues like high blood pressure, proteinuria, and kidney disease.

This study suggests that donors should maintain a normal weight post-donation, which is important anyway to avoid diabetes, hypertension, and a host of other health problems.  It also suggests that transplant centers may need to tighten donor-selection criteria even more to eliminate potential donors carrying only a few extra pounds.  Now, this is bad news.

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2 Responses to Overweight Kidney Donors – Two Concerns

  1. “Now, this is bad news”

    It’s bad news that transplant centers may have to take steps to ensure potential living kidney donors’ safety?

    I mean – isn’t the very point of the evaluation process to minimize risk to the healthy person potentially being used as treatment for someone else?

    I really hope I’m misinterpreting your intent here, because the idea that it’s acceptable to harm healthy folks as long as the sick ones get a kidney is – uh – troubling, to say the least.

    • Vicki says:

      We appreciate your comment, but you completely misread the article. The “bad news” is that a donor’s later weight gain could be a threat to kidney health. The entire article emphasizes concerns for the donor. If you have been following the posts, you know we have presented several articles (and the most recent newsletter) on America’s weight epidemic and the resulting health consequences. Excess weight increases odds for kidney disease and progression of the disease. The article you unfairly attack highlights donor/transplant concerns about excess weight based on recent research.