Currently, about 122,000 patients in the U.S. are in need of a potentially life-saving transplant, and every 10 minutes, another name is to the wait list, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Although African Americans make up only about 13 percent of the population, they comprise 30 percent of those individuals needing a transplant. High levels of diabetes and hypertension within the African American community are partially to blame for such disparate statistics. In addition, people of color are also less likely to register as organ donors.
Dr. Henry Randall, St. Louis University liver and kidney transplant surgeon, said preventable chronic illnesses are a culprit.
“The number one reason why people require a kidney transplant in the African American community is high blood pressure and diabetes,” Randall said. “And of course, those being some of the leading causes or related factors to obesity.”
Randall is the division chief of Adult and Pediatric Transplants at SLU and Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center as well as associate professor of surgery for the School of Medicine. He said patients with End State Renal Disease go on dialysis as they await an available kidney for transplant. He said living kidney donors is the pathway to avoid going on dialysis.
“You can get a living donor transplant and not have to wait on dialysis, but you have to have healthy donors,” Randall said. “If you donors happen to have diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in their own medical problems, then they can’t donate, lest they end up in the same position that you are.”
Lifestyle and fat factors into the need for liver transplants as well.
“The No. 1 reason for that is hepatitis C nowadays, also, alcohol abuse, former alcohol abuse is pretty high, and then there are a number of other causes of liver disease,” Randall said. “What’s up-and-coming with the new hepatitis C drugs being able to cure hepatitis, is NASH – Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis. That’s essentially a fatty liver.”