American Indians, Latinos Less Likely To Get New Kidney

New York, NY
January 1, 2005

NEW YORK—(January 1, 2005) – American Indians and Latinos are significantly less likely to receive a kidney transplant than whites, even though all groups are equally as likely to need the operation, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official publication of the National Kidney Foundation.

During the study, researchers found that American Indians are more than 60 percent less likely to receive a new kidney than whites, even when both have received transplant referrals. Among Latinos, the rate of kidney transplant was 40 percent below that seen among whites.

“Like African-Americans, other minority groups are also denied access to lifesaving care for chronic kidney disease, suggesting that experts still have a lot of work to do when addressing and removing barriers to access and care for minority groups,” says David G. Warnock, MD, president of the National Kidney Foundation and director of the Division of Nephrology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans—one in nine adults—have chronic kidney disease. More than 20 million more are at increased risk for developing kidney disease, and most don't even know it.

If left untreated, chronic kidney disease (CKD) can progress to end-stage renal disease or kidney failure, when people need either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. Today, American Indians and Latinos are twice as likely as whites to develop end-stage renal disease, and the rate of this form of CKD is increasing much more rapidly in these minority groups.

Previous research has shown that African-Americans who need new kidneys are less likely to get them. To investigate whether the same troubling pattern occurs among other minority groups, researchers followed 1,335 dialysis patients between the ages of 20 and 59 from Arizona and New Mexico, two states with high rates of Latino and American Indian residents, to see who received new kidneys over a 7-year period.

Despite the fact that American Indians and Latinos were just as – if not more—likely as whites to be considered candidates for kidney transplant, both were less likely to be placed on a transplant waiting list, and less likely to get a new kidney than whites.

However, both minority groups appeared to fare just as well as whites after the transplant.

Both American Indians and Latinos were more likely to refuse a new kidney than whites, often saying they preferred to stay on dialysis, were afraid of the surgery, or voicing cultural or religious objections. Moreover, approximately 80 percent of American Indians lived on a tribal reservation, and almost three-quarters had to drive at least 1 hour to get to a kidney transplant center, while only one-quarter of whites had the same travel time.

“Improving how we educate minority patients about the benefits of kidney transplant, and helping them get to places where they will receive the transplant, may help shrink the healthcare gap currently separating whites and minorities when it comes to end-stage renal disease,” says Warnock.

The National Kidney Foundation is a major voluntary health organization, which seeks to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increase the availability of all organs for transplantation.