Kidney transplants performed in Europe are considerably more successful in the long run than those performed in the United States. While the one-year survival rate is 90% in both Europe and the United States, after five years, 77% of the donor kidneys in Europe still function, while in the United States, this rate among white Americans is only 71%. After ten years, graft survival for the two groups is 56% versus 46%, respectively. The lower survival rates compared to Europe also apply to Hispanic Americans, in whom 48% of the transplanted kidneys still function after ten years, and particularly to African Americans, whose graft survival is a mere 33%.
Researchers from Heidelberg have described the large discrepancy for the first time, after systematically comparing data from the world's most comprehensive study on transplant results, the Collaborative Transplant Study (CTS) in Heidelberg, with transplant data from the United States. Their research findings have now been published online in the journal Transplantation.
The results of the study show particularly large differences in graft survival among children and young adults between Europe and the US. One reason for the poorer results in the United States may be the fact that costs of anti-rejection drugs are usually reimbursed by Medicare for only three years, while in Europe, the statutory health insurance guarantees lifelong reimbursement of costs. In the United States, patients who have undergone kidney transplants often have to pay for these drugs themselves. Costs amount to around US$ 20,000 per year.
Heidelberg CTS Study evaluates international data on transplantation
The CTS Study conducted for the past 30 years at Heidelberg University Hospital's Transplantation Immunology department, headed by Prof. Gerhard Opelz, has collected data on transplants performed worldwide and evaluates them. These days, kidney transplants are generally very successful. A major reason for this is the anti-rejection drugs, or immunosuppressants, which must be taken by kidney-transplant recipients on a lifelong basis.