Black kidney failure patients now can get on transplant lists sooner

Kristal Higgins just wants to be healthy, become a nurse and travel to Greece. But she has kidney failure and has been on a transplant waiting list for six years. 

The disease and its comorbidities have touched many of her loved ones. Her mother has stage 2 kidney disease. Her father is diabetic, a risk factor for kidney failure, as was her late grandmother. Several of her relatives have kidney failure.

Black people are almost four times as likely to be diagnosed with renal failure as white people — but many are often diagnosed late and it takes longer to get on transplant lists.

That’s because of an antiquated kidney function test that can overestimate kidney function in Black patients, masking the severity of their kidney disease and resulting in late diagnosis and delayed transplant referrals.

The test has drawn scrutiny from experts in recent years. Last summer, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network board, which links transplant centers and develops policies, prohibited use of the calculation.

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