As the demand for kidney transplantation continues to increase, some patients needing a transplant have looked abroad for available organs. The findings suggest that such “transplant tourism” by Americans may not be as safe as receiving transplants in the United States.
To investigate the issue, the researchers studied the outcomes of kidney transplant recipients who were US residents that travelled abroad for transplants and returned to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for follow-up care. They compared these so called “transplant tourists” with similar patients who underwent both transplantation and follow-up care at UCLA.
The study included 33 transplant tourists and 66 UCLA-transplanted patients who were followed for an average of 16 months. The investigators noted that most transplant tourists travelled to their region of ethnicity with the majority receiving transplants in China (44 percent), Iran (16 percent), and the Philippines (13 percent). After receiving their transplants, tourists came to UCLA for follow-up about a month after their procedure.
After one year, kidney rejection occurred in 30 percent of tourists compared with twelve percent of the UCLA-transplanted patients. The incidence of infections was not significantly different between tourists and UCLA-transplanted patients, but the severity and types of infections were markedly different. Seventeen tourists (52 percent) had at least one infectious complication, with three patients having had two or more infectious episodes. Nine patients (27 percent) were hospitalised with an infection listed as the primary cause of hospitalisation. By comparison, only six (nine percent) of the 66 UCLA-transplanted patients required hospitalisation for infectious complications following transplantation.
One patient in the transplant tourism group died from complications related to possibly donor-contracted hepatitis B. The investigators also noted that infections with cytomegalovirus were more common among tourists than UCLA-transplanted patients.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Society of Nephrology (ASN)