Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a very overlooked and under-recognized affliction that affects approximately 30 million Americans -- the vast majority (96%) of whom don't even know it. In 2013, more than 47,000 Americans died of kidney disease. While this may seem grim, it's important to realize the disease's prevalence and how it works. CKD is an affliction that causes the kidneys to cease functioning. Since the kidneys are responsible for filtering waste out of the bloodstream, it goes without saying that when they stop working, other health complications will arise; and while it's true that if left untreated it will result in fatality, it is a perfectly treatable, not curable, ailment. There are two methods to treat CKD: dialysis or organ transplantation. Dialysis is the most timely, cost-effective way of treating CKD, but again, it's not a cure. Dialysis cleanses the blood via machines that, in effect, replace the kidneys. Even though it's an effective treatment, many people complain that it's time-consuming and inconvenient because the patient needs to visit a dialysis center or hospital an upwards of 3 or 4 times per week, each session lasting a few hours, for the rest of their life. A more permanent, yet complex, solution is transplantation.
Kidney transplantation is a one-time surgery that replaces dying or dead kidneys with healthy ones from a donor (living or deceased). With a few lifestyle changes and supplementary medication, the patient can return to normal life. "If it's so effective, why doesn't everybody receive it?", you may be thinking. Well, there are a few complications -- and they're not the easiest to overcome.
Healthy Kidney Demand
The number of CKD patients vastly outweighs the number of healthy, available kidneys. It's as simple as that. Patients can wait for years on the waiting list before a compatible donor is found. Currently, an estimated 93,000 patients are on the kidney donor list awaiting transplant. Patients' transplantation viability is measured on a number of factors, the main ones being:
Blood Type Matters
While it's not the biggest determining factor in locating a viable donor, it definitely matters in terms of quality of life after the transplant. It's possible to receive a donated kidney from the wrong blood type (aka ABO incompatible), but a lot of extra medical care will be required both before and after the procedure since organ rejection will be more likely.
However, tissue type also plays a role. When it's determined that a potential donor has compatible blood types, another test is done to compare genetic markers that indicate further compatibility. Because of this, the best way to find kidney donors is within your own family. Siblings have a 25% chance of being an exact match and a 50% chance of being a half match.
Live or Deceased Organ Donors -- Which is Better?
There are two types of kidney donors in this world: those that are alive and those that are deceased. The majority of live donors are family or friends of the patient, around 7,000 per year, in fact. Meanwhile, around 13,000 kidneys per year are donated from deceased donors. This fact skews the statistics regarding wait time for kidney transplant. Since many of the living donors are family or close friends to the patient, the average wait time for a live donor transplant is around 1 year. However, if the patient needs to receive a transplant from a deceased donor, the wait can take years, if a viable kidney is even found at all.
Organ donation is an uncomfortable topic for some people. It's natural that we don't like to face our own mortality, but the reality is that becoming a donor after death can save many innocent lives at no real cost to you.
If you or a loved one currently or are at risk of chronic kidney disease, schedule a consultation today. The sooner you visit, the greater the chances we can help you navigate the path to a healthy life.