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Kidneys from drug-related deaths exhibit high success rates after transplantation

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New evidence suggests transplant recipients who receive a kidney from someone who has passed away from drug toxicity often experience excellent transplant outcomes – sometimes even better outcomes than recipients of organs from donors who died from other causes. 

Max Xie, a Masters student at the BC Center for Disease Control, helped conduct the study in partnership with experts from BC Transplant and the University of British Columbia. He notes previous studies done in the United States have suggested kidney transplants can be just as successful when the organ comes from someone who passed away from a drug toxicity-related death, compared to other forms of mortality. Xie was curious to know if similar trends were taking place in Canada. 

To find out, his team analyzed data capturing more than 1,000 transplantations from deceased donors in British Columbia between 2013 and 2019. The results show a recipient’s chance of graft survival – where their donated organ is still functioning – was 97 percent five years after transplantation for recipients of drug toxicity donor kidneys and 83 percent for recipients of non-drug toxicity donor kidneys.
The underlying reasons for this higher success rate of transplanted kidneys from drug toxicity-related deaths may be due to the demographics of donors. “Many of those who have died of drug toxicity are on average younger and with fewer comorbidities,” explains Xie. “The fact that they are younger would result in a healthier organ for transplant.”

It’s a silver lining to the tragic loss of life from drug toxicity.

Notably, transplant recipients are informed about the donor’s cause of death when they are presented with a potential organ for transplant. Xie says this study could help transplant recipients decide whether or not to accept an organ from donors who passed away from drug toxicity. “It’s recommended that you do consent to the use of these organs because survival is at least as good as compared to receiving a kidney from a donor that did not die of drug toxicity,” he says.

However, Xie also notes that the demographics of people passing away from drug toxicity could be evolving, and so ongoing monitoring and studies exploring transplant outcomes from these donors would be useful.




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