In the United States, 94,293 people were on the waiting list as candidates for a kidney as of 11:55 am EST today, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
An individual would require a kidney transplant if she has kidney failure.
The most common causes in the United States of end-stage kidney disease, in which the kidneys can no longer function in the capacity needed, are high blood pressure and diabetes, according to MedlinePlus.
Patients in need of a kidney can wait several years for a donated organ. While waiting for a kidney, patients need to be on dialysis, a procedure which removes harmful substances from the blood — a function the kidney can no longer do.
Patients undergoing dialysis may need to have treatment three times a week, with each session lasting three to four hours.
To find a kidney suitable for the patient, the patient and kidney must be matched on certain factors: blood type and human leukocyte antigen, or HLA. A third factor, antibodies produced by the patient’s immune system, is also considered when finding a match.
If the patient’s immune system reacts to the donated organ, her body will not be able to accept this.
This is a significant issue for women and minorities waiting for kidney transplantation.
Jeffrey L. Veale, M.D., a UCLA transplant surgeon, explained that minorities, especially Hispanic and black individuals, have naturally higher antibodies. This can make it difficult to find a match for them, and they can sit on the deceased donor list for a long time, up to 10 years.
For women, the difficulty in finding a match may occur after having a baby.
Dr. Veale said that when a woman has a baby with her husband, she is exposed to her husband’s antibodies. If she needs a kidney later, her husband cannot be a donor, as her immune system has already made antibodies from her husband.
That is where living donors come in. Let’s say an individual wants to give a loved one a kidney, but she is not a match. Another person is a match for the loved one needing a kidney and donates that kidney.