Health Watch

Old organs give new hope

Saturday, August 25, 2012

More than 90,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a kidney donation.

In some parts of the country, it can take up to 10 years, and many people in need die before an organ becomes available. Now, using organs from older donors could be a game-changer.

Married 49 years, Bob and Sue Brown are a perfect match.

"We've always been best friends. Everything we do, we do together," Bob brown told Action News.

When Sue needed a kidney, Bob hoped he'd be her perfect match again.

"He didn't hesitate. He just stepped up to the plate," Sue Brown told Action News.

But Bob was 75 at the time, and wondered if he might be too old to be a donor.

Dr. Dorry Segev says it's a common concern among older people who want to donate.

"You're not too old. If you're healthy, you can donate, even if you're over 70," Dorry Segev, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery and epidemiology director of clinical research, transplant surgery director of information technology at Johns Hopkins medical institutions, explained.

He recently conducted a study supporting that. In it, patients who received donated kidneys from people over 70 were not any more likely to die within 10 years of transplantation compared to people who received kidneys from younger donors. Also, the older donors lived longer than non-donors of the same age.

"We are realizing that if somebody is healthy, chronological age is not the same as medical age," Dr. Segev said.

But the research shows kidneys from older donors are more likely to fail within ten years compared to kidneys from younger donors. The doctor says they are still a better option than waiting for an organ from a deceased donor and they could help lessen the national shortage.

"If we can bring forward more healthy older adults, then they can make a huge impact," Dr. Segev added.

Bob was able to donate his kidney to Sue.

"She needed one, and I gave it to her," Bob said.

"He's just that kind of person that does the right thing," Sue said.

While they share kidneys, the couple looks forward to sharing their next big adventure, a cruise of the great lakes.

The doctor says older organ donations are becoming more common. He tells us older deceased donors may also be considered as long as their organs are healthy.

For more information, contact:
Stephanie Desmon
(410) 956-8665
Sdesmon1@jhmi.edu

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