• When determining whether kidneys are suitable for transplantation in the United States, biopsy analyses don’t provide useful information beyond standard donor and recipient characteristics.
  • Many kidneys discarded based on biopsy findings would likely benefit U.S. patients who are waiting for a transplant. 

Newswise — Washington, DC (December 15, 2020) — New research indicates that analyses of kidney biopsies from deceased donors don’t provide meaningful information beyond standard assessments of donor and recipient characteristics. In addition, the study revealed that relying on these analyses has prompted the discard of many potentially suitable organs for transplantation in the United States. The findings appear in an upcoming issue of JASN.

Despite a critical scarcity of organs available for transplantation, thousands of deceased donor kidneys are discarded each year in the United States. Approximately half of kidneys from deceased donors in the country are biopsied to assess their quality, and many of these kidneys are discarded because of structural abnormalities detected through microscopic analyses. It’s unknown whether such analyses add value beyond usual donor and recipient attributes—such as physical characteristics and medical history—in predicting the survival of transplanted kidneys, however.

To investigate, a team led by Alexandre Loupy, MD, PhD (Paris Translational Research Center for Organ Transplantation) and Peter Reese, MD, MSCE (University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine) analyzed detailed data from transplant centers in France and Belgium, where pretransplant biopsies are performed as standard practice but—unlike in the U.S.—do not guide decision-making for organ allocation. 

“In this study, we took advantage of a natural experiment—differences in transplant practice between the U.S. and European centers,” said Dr. Loupy. “In France and Belgium, kidneys are not routinely biopsied as part of allocation but some centers do biopsy kidneys after acceptance for transplant and use those findings to guide subsequent patient care.”

The researchers found that microscopic analyses did not improve the prediction of the survival or failure of transplanted kidneys beyond a set of donor and recipient characteristics. 

The investigators also studied donor kidneys from deceased U.S. donors—specifically, organs discarded because of abnormalities detected through microscopic analyses—and matched them with similar kidneys transplanted in Europe. The matched kidneys had acceptable survival, illustrating lost transplant opportunities in the United States.

“Forty-five percent of U.S. kidneys discarded in this way could be accurately matched to kidneys transplanted in France. These discarded kidneys would be expected to have allograft survival of 93.1%, 80.7% and 68.9% at 1, 5 and 10 years, respectively,” Dr. Loupy said. 

Study co-authors include Olivier Aubert, MD, PhDMaarten Naesens, MD, PhD; Edmund Huang MD, PhD; Vishnu Potluri, MD, MPH; Dirk Kuypers, MD, PhD; Antoine Bouquegneau, MD; Gillian Divard, MD; Marc Raynaud, MSc; Yassine Bouatou, MD, PhD; Ashley Vo, Pharm.D; Denis Glotz, MD, PhD; Christophe Legendre, MD; Carmen Lefaucheur, MD, PhD; Stanley Jordan, MD, PhD; Jean-Philippe Empana, MD, PhD; and Xavier Jouven, MD, PhD.

Disclosures: The authors reported no relevant financial disclosures. This work was supported in part by French national research agency (INSERM) ATIP Avenir and Fondation Bettencourt Schueller. The interpretation and reporting of these data are the responsibility of the author(s) and in no way should be seen as an official policy of or interpretation by CRISTAL or the French government. Dr. Potluri’s work was supported by a Satellite Dialysis Clinical Investigator Grant of the National Kidney Foundation. This work was supported in part by Health Resources and Services Administration contract 234-2005-37011C. The content is the responsibility of the authors alone and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

The article, titled “Assessment of the Utility of Kidney Histology as a Basis for Discarding Organs in the US: A Comparison of International Transplant Practices and Outcomes,” will appear online at http://jasn.asnjournals.org/ on December 15, 2020, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2020040464.

The content of this article does not reflect the views or opinions of The American Society of Nephrology (ASN). Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the author(s). ASN does not offer medical advice. All content in ASN publications is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions, or adverse effects. This content should not be used during a medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other qualified health care provider if you have any questions about a medical condition, or before taking any drug, changing your diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment. Do not ignore or delay obtaining professional medical advice because of information accessed through ASN. Call 911 or your doctor for all medical emergencies.

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JASN, doi: 10.1681/ASN.2020040464