Donating A Kidney Could Increase Your Health Risks & What To Do About It!

New research suggests that donating a kidney may not shorten your life or enhance the chances of you getting heart disease or diabetes; but, there are some other health risks that you might become more susceptible to.

From old studies that have been carried out on over 100,000 living kidney donors, it was observed that there was a higher rate of blood pressure and kidney malfunction than in non-donors. It was also observed that the female donors had nearly two times the level of complications found in non-donors.

Dr. Emanuele Di Angelantonio who authored the study stated that the study was aimed at the low but present risks involved in donating a kidney and went on to emphasize the importance of comprehensive assessment and counseling for any living kidney donor. He went on to note that although some answers have been provided by this systemic review, there is a lot to do in the field to attain the precise risk assessment. He currently directs the National Institute for Health Research’s Blood and Transplant Unit in Donor Health and Genomics at the University of Cambridge in England.

In 2016 alone, over 19,000 kidney donations were done in United States and according to the figure provided by the US Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplant, about 1 in every 5 organs comes from a living donor. He also noted that about 83% of all transplant candidates on the waiting list in the United States are waiting for Kidneys. An average of 20 people die daily from waiting for organ transplants.

Over 52 published studies, comparing about 118,400 living kidney donors to 117,600 non-donors were combed through by Dr. Angelantonio and his colleagues in order to evaluate the mid and long term health implications of donating a kidney while still alive. The average follow up of participants ranged from 1 – 24 years.

Although lower diastolic blood pressure was recorded for kidney donors, the lower number of readings, reflecting blood pressure between heartbeats — and an increased risk for end-stage kidney disease, other note-worthy risk profiles were not too far off when compared to non-donors. There was no direct evidence that donors had higher risk of death, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or lower life quality.

This study was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Jan. 30.

A co-author of an editorial on the study, Dr. Peter Reese, who is also an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, praised it as authoritative. His reason was that it brought studies together that were conducted in different parts of the world at different times. He went on to say that thanks to the study, we now have a clearer picture of what happens to the kidney donors years after they donate kidney.

He added that he was very careful with the younger kidney donors – those under 25 years of age – noting that if they donated now, they would have a lot of years to live on one kidney and may find it difficult imagining a future day when they would not be as healthy as they are today.

He went on to state a couple of risk mitigating actions that could help kidney donors in the short and long term.

Such measures include:

Reese added that it is important that they avoid tobacco and other aspects of an unhealthy lifestyle because kidney health depends a lot on the lifestyle choices made by individuals as well as a good control of risk factors such as blood pressure.