(RxWiki News) Even after getting a kidney transplant, patients' new kidneys can develop serious, life-threatening problems.
The good news is research shows that damage to kidney transplants may be less of a problem than previously thought.
A couple of decades ago, studies suggested that most transplanted kidneys were affected by scarring - a problem that can impact the kidney's ability to function.
Now, researchers have found that 87 percent of kidney transplant patients have minor or no scar damage to their new organ one year after surgery. Five years after transplant, this number dropped only a little bit to 83 percent.
"Damage to kidney transplants is not as common as previously thought."
These findings are good news for everyone worried about the long-term survival of kidney transplant recipients, says Mark Stegall, M.D., a transplant surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.
According to Dr. Stegall, minimal and mild fibrosis do not have a huge impact on kidney function. However, when scarring becomes severe, the kidney can lose its ability to function, which may require a patient to start dialysis or to undergo another transplant.
"Kidney transplantation is usually a very successful procedure that frees a patient from the grueling process of dialysis," says Michelle Segovia of the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance. "Out of the 110,000 men, women and children awaiting a life-saving transplant, more than 88,000 are awaiting a kidney. The wait can take years and some patients die before they can receive their transplant."
She adds, "If you’d like to save lives through organ donation, please register your intentions to be a donor at www.donatelife.net"
For their study, Mayo Clinic researchers followed almost 800 kidney transplant patients for five years. Of these patients, 296 went through biopsies at one year and five years, letting the researchers closely observe changes in the kidney over time.
After one year, the researchers found that 47 percent of transplant patients had minimal fibrosis (scarring) and 40 percent had mild fibrosis. After five years, 38 percent of patients had minimal fibrosis and 45 percent had mild fibrosis.