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Model of a kidney, shown by James Curley of the National Museum of Health and Science (Maryland, USA)

Life expectation with donor kidney highest in EU

RobK(Photo: MilitaryHealth)

Recent research shows that kidney transplants which were carried out in Europe are more successful than those done in the United States. The difference becomes more marked after the first year following the transplant: five years after the operation, 77 percent of the European donor kidneys continue to function, while the percentage is just 71 percent among Caucasian Americans.

The discrepancy increases as the years progress. After ten years, 56 of the European donor kidneys are still working, while in the US it's only 46 percent. The latter figure also holds for Latin Americans, where 48 percent of the new kidneys is still running after a decade. The effect is even more marked in Afro-Americans, where the ten-year kidney survival rate is only 33 percent.

Researchers from Heidelberg, Germany were the first to report such findings, based on a systematic analysis of the Collaborative Transplant Study and on data from the US. Their report was published in the Transplantation medical journal.

For an explanation of the difference between both sides of the Atlantic, the researchers are looking to the availability of immunosuppressive medication, which prevent a rejection of the transplanted kidney by the recipient's body. The US Medicare system pays for immunsuppressives for three years at most, while Europe's mandatory health insurance guarantees a lifelong supply of the drug.

The Heidelberg team observes that the Medicare approach costs human lives, and that it is financially flawed: post-transplant medication costs no more than 20,000 dollars per patient per year, whereas refraining from a transplant and continuing dialysis costs 75,000 dollars a year. - (IEDE)

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