Change To Kidney Test Makes Transplants More Racially Equitable

Bernardia Johnson, who recently underwent kidney transplant surgery, is thriving one month post-operation. Living with stage five chronic kidney disease, Johnson faced significant challenges as five potential donors fell through before the sixth match succeeded. Her journey on the transplant list, originally marked at two years, was recalculated to five years and eight months due to recent changes in medical assessment protocols. The adjustment came after the removal of race as a factor in kidney function estimation tests, a shift that significantly improved her position on the list.

Hennepin Healthcare’s Chief of Nephrology highlighted that previous testing methods systematically skewed results for Black patients, often affecting their eligibility for transplants. Following the recalculation mandate, transplant centers reviewed and adjusted the records of Black patients accordingly.

This change addresses some of the racial disparities in kidney failure treatment outcomes, where Black people face almost four times the incidence compared to white individuals, with higher rates also observed among Hispanics. Johnson’s health struggles were exacerbated by diabetes and hypertension, conditions prevalent in the Black community. Despite the progress, medical professionals acknowledge the ongoing need to tackle these disparities comprehensively.

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