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Voucher-Based Kidney Donation and Redemption for Future Transplant
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1001/jamasurg.2021.2375
ImportancePolicy makers, transplant professionals, and patient organizations agree that there is a need to increase the number of kidney transplants by facilitating living donation. Vouchers for future transplant provide a means of overcoming the chronological incompatibility that occurs when the ideal time for living donation differs from the time at which the intended recipient actually needs a transplant. However, uncertainty remains regarding the actual change in the number of living kidney donors associated with voucher programs and the capability of voucher redemptions to produce timely transplants.
ObjectiveTo examine the consequences of voucher-based kidney donation and the capability of voucher redemptions to provide timely kidney allografts.
Design, setting, and participantsThis multicenter cohort study of 79 transplant centers across the US used data from the National Kidney Registry from January 1, 2014, to January 31, 2021, to identify all family vouchers and patterns in downstream kidney-paired donations. The analysis included living kidney donors and recipients participating in the National Kidney Registry family voucher program.
ExposuresA voucher was provided to the intended recipient at the time of donation. Vouchers had no cash value and could not be sold, bartered, or transferred to another person. When a voucher was redeemed, a living donation chain was used to return a kidney to the voucher holder.
Main outcomes and measuresDeidentified demographic and clinical data from each kidney donation were evaluated, including the downstream patterns in kidney-paired donation. Voucher redemptions were separately evaluated and analyzed.
ResultsBetween 2014 and 2021, 250 family voucher-based donations were facilitated. Each donation precipitated a transplant chain with a mean (SD) length of 2.3 (1.6) downstream kidney transplants, facilitating 573 total transplants. Of those, 111 transplants (19.4%) were performed in highly sensitized recipients. Among 250 voucher donors, the median age was 46 years (range, 19-78 years), and 157 donors (62.8%) were female, 241 (96.4%) were White, and 104 (41.6%) had blood type O. Over a 7-year period, the waiting time for those in the National Kidney Registry exchange pool decreased by more than 3 months. Six vouchers were redeemed, and 3 of those redemptions were among individuals with blood type O. The time from voucher redemption to kidney transplant ranged from 36 to 155 days.
Conclusions and relevanceIn this study, the family voucher program appeared to mitigate a major disincentive to living kidney donation, namely the reluctance to donate a kidney in the present that could be redeemed in the future if needed. The program facilitated kidney donations that may not otherwise have occurred. All 6 of the redeemed vouchers produced timely kidney transplants, indicating the capability of the voucher program.
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