Background: The prospect of xenotransplantation has stimulated considerable hopes as well as major concerns. The question of whether or not patients accept xenografts is influenced not only by scientific facts but also by psychological factors. It was the aim of this study to analyze the attitudes of patients toward transplantation of xenogeneic organs and evaluate factors influencing these attitudes.
Methods: To this end, attitudes toward xenogeneic compared with allogeneic organ grafts were evaluated by means of detailed questionnaires in 1049 patients in Germany, who either had received transplants (n=722) or were on the waiting list for various organ grafts (n=327). Answers were correlated to demographic data as well as to the physical and mental conditions of the patients.
Results: The survey indicates that 77% of patients would accept xenografts while 7% would refuse them if results of xenotransplantation were comparable with those of allotransplantation. If xenotransplantation were associated with increased risks due to more intensive medication 58% would still basically accept xenografts. Acceptance of xenografts was significantly higher in patients who had received transplants and among males. Age, religion, waiting time, and type of organ were not found to influence acceptance rates. Xenografts were thought to be associated with considerable or severe emotional stress by 23% of patients, versus 3% for allografts. The pig was the preferred donor animal, and gene therapeutic manipulation for improvement of results would be accepted by 84%. Inadequate graft function/increased risk of rejection and risk of disease transmission were the major concerns for 60% and 52% of patients, respectively; emotional concerns were the major concerns for 24% and animal-rights concerns for 15%.
Conclusions: These findings show that the potential acceptance rate of xenografts would be quite high, with a more positive attitude in transplanted patients than in waiting-list patients; there was no major difference in acceptance rate for various types of organs. Major concerns about xenotransplantation currently are functional inferiority and transmission of diseases.