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"High-Risk" Donor Organs May Not Be So Risky

Update Date: Oct 25, 2013 01:25 PM EDT

Based on the criteria set by government health authorities, approximately 10 percent of deceased donor kidneys are considered "high-risk" for infection. However, a new study reveals that many of these organs are actually safe and should therefore not be labeled as "high-risk," by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lead researcher Moya Gallagher of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center looked at data from 170 patients who received kidneys that met the CDC's high-risk criteria at Columbia University Medical Center.

Researchers said that the patients in the study underwent antibody and DNA screening at 6, 12 and 24 weeks after transplant. The patents also received standard immunosuppressive therapy.

Researchers said 51.7 percent of the patient shad a history of IV drug use, 25.9 percent had high-risk sexual behavior, 11.8 percent were incarcerated, 7.1 percent were men who had sex with men and 4.7 percent had received multiple blood transfusions. The study revealed that 77.8 percent of the donor kidneys were imported from other centers, suggesting that other centers declined to use these organs.

The findings show that 86.5 percent of transplants were functioning after a median of 2.4 years follow up. There was also no transmission of viral diseases like human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis C or hepatitis B.

Researchers said that the findings suggest that the use of so-called high-risk deceased donor organs is relatively safety when screened by current methods. In light of the latest findings, researchers recommend these organs be labeled as "identified risk" rather than "high-risk".

"Utilization of these organs represents an opportunity for shortening wait time for patients while providing good outcomes and an extremely low level of risk for transmission of infections," said Gallagher.

"For most deceased organ donors, the medical/social history is obtained second or third hand, and it is erroneous to assume that some of these patients do not fall into the groups that constitute the 'high-risk' classification. Therefore, we believe that the current dichotomized classification is misleading and does a disservice to those patients on the waiting list," she concluded.

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