There are over 90000 people waiting for a transplant kidney in the United States, so it’s rather disheartening when you learn that last year, 2600 kidneys were harvested and subsequently discarded. Sure, some of those organs might not be suitable for transplant, but at least some of them were perfectly good kidneys. In an expose published by the NYTimes, they reveal an anecdote about a kidney from a fit 36-year-old man which was thrown away because a nationwide computer search failed to come up with a match. Remember, there are over 90000 people waiting for a transplant. Medical experts think that over half the kidneys discarded could be used, and they blame it on an outdated computer matching program.

There are other factors to blame, such as dated government regulations and politics between organ procurement organizations. But the general rules and procedures for allocating kidneys haven’t changed in over eight years, and fails to account for life expectancy, or the how badly the transplant is needed. The rules governing other organs take that data into consideration. A recent computer simulation by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients showed that even one year of a more efficient system could lead to 10000 life-years in one chronological year.

It’s clearly time to revamp the nationwide kidney matching program. Recent proposals recommend matching up the youngest donors with the youngest kidneys, which would improve outcomes at the expense of discriminating against certain groups, like seniors. But the first, and perhaps most important step, is improving the aging computer matching program so we’re not losing valuable organs.

Read the whole story over at the New York Times.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Lea Abrams.

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