Background: In October 1987, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) established a national kidney-sharing program to increase the number of HLA-matched transplantations. Since then, over 7500 cadaveric kidneys have been shipped to centers in 48 states for transplantation to HLA-matched patients. We evaluated the efficacy of the program during its first 12 years of operation.
Methods: We compared the rates of rejection and actuarial graft survival for 7614 HLA-matched and 81,364 HLA-mismatched cadaveric kidney transplantations reported to the UNOS Scientific Registry between October 1987 and September 1999. To assess the effects of the extended period of ischemia associated with shipping HLA-matched kidneys, we identified 3562 pairs of cadaveric kidneys in which one kidney went to an HLA-matched recipient and the other went to an HLA-mismatched recipient.
Results: The estimated 10-year rate of graft survival was 52 percent for HLA-matched transplants, as compared with 37 percent for HLA-mismatched transplants. The estimated half-lives of the transplants were 12.5 years and 8.6 years, respectively, and the mean duration of cold ischemia was 23 hours and 22 hours, respectively. After adjustment for the effects of demographic characteristics, at 10 years the overall rates of graft survival and the rates of functional-graft survival (with data censored on patients who died with a functioning graft) were 10 percent and 11 percent higher, respectively, for HLA-matched transplants than for HLA-mismatched transplants. Among 3562 pairs of kidneys, HLA-matched transplants had higher rates of survival, a lower incidence of episodes of rejection, and a lower risk of loss as a result of rejection.
Conclusions: A superior graft outcome with little increase in the duration of cold ischemia justifies national sharing of HLA-matched kidney transplants.