A recent study published on September 10, 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that kidney failure patients receiving dialysis at for-profit dialysis centers are less likely to get a kidney transplant than patients at nonprofit dialysis clinics.
Emory researcher Rachel Patzer, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor in the departments of Surgery and Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and senior author on the JAMA paper, wanted to determine if there were lower rates of living donor and deceased donor transplantation among for-profit dialysis facilities.
Using publicly available data from the national United States Renal Data System (USRDS), researchers looked at nearly 1.5 million kidney failure patients over 16 years. The study included a review of non-profit small chains, non-profit independent facilities, for-profit large chains, for-profit small chains, and for-profit independent facilities.
Results of the study
Researchers found that almost 12% of patients at for-profit centers were waitlisted for a kidney transplant, but that nearly 30% of nonprofit dialysis patients got on a waiting list.
“For-profit dialysis facilities have a higher profit margin when they have more patients on dialysis,” says Patzer. “In nonprofit facilities, there is not the same emphasis on profit margins. We hypothesize that this leads to fewer referrals for transplant among for-profit dialysis facilities, which may explain why there is a higher rate of waitlisting and living donor transplants among nonprofit facilities compared to for-profit dialysis facilities.”
Whether patients receive dialysis in a for-profit or non-profit dialysis facility, there is one important message the researchers want to pass along …
“Patients should advocate for themselves, and ask questions about all treatment options, including transplantation,” says Patzer. “Not all patients are candidates for transplant, but patients should make sure to have these conversations with their medical providers to understand the risks, benefits, and steps needed to pursue kidney transplantation as a treatment option.”
Kidney transplant as a treatment option
A kidney transplant is another option for individuals with end-stage renal failure. This surgical procedure removes the kidneys that are no longer functioning and replaces them with one healthy kidney. Our bodies only need one healthy kidney to effectively filter waste and water from the blood.
The main advantage of a kidney transplant is quality of life: Individuals who undergo a kidney transplant are usually able to return to a normal, active lifestyle. In fact, many find themselves enjoying things they never were able to before the transplant, such as travel, exercise and more time with family and friends.
A transplant improves your kidney health and your overall health and wellness. Many find they have more energy, a stronger appetite, and are better able to manage chronic health conditions. They also no longer need dialysis.
Kidneys for transplantation come from two sources: living donors and deceased (non-living) donors. Living donation is possible because a person can live well with one healthy kidney.
Emory Kidney Transplant Program
Emory Transplant Center performed Georgia’s first kidney transplant in 1996 and continues to deliver comprehensive care.
In 2018, the Emory Kidney Transplant Program performed 281 adult kidney transplants and 13 simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplants. This number of surgeries placed the Emory Kidney Transplant Program among the top six centers in the nation for adult kidney transplants.
And as a top kidney transplant center in the nation, we’re at the forefront of clinical excellence and in pioneering new transplant therapies. We offer cutting-edge technology while delivering unsurpassed, comprehensive care to our patients.
Learn more about the care and innovation available through the Emory Kidney Transplant Program.