Morbid obesity is not a contraindication to kidney transplantation

Am J Surg. 2004 May;187(5):635-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2004.01.015.


Background: Concern that morbidly obese (body mass index [BMI] 35) kidney transplant recipients have worse outcomes than non-morbidly obese recipients leads many transplant centers to deny them the benefit of kidney transplantation. These concerns are supported by guidelines recently published by the American Society of Transplantation. However, successfully transplanted morbidly obese persons have a survival advantage over those that remain on dialysis. It is our practice to evaluate morbidly obese transplant candidates for transplantation under the same criteria used for nonobese candidates. This report reviews our experience with morbidly obese kidney transplant recipients having a three year follow-up.

Methods: Outcomes for 23 morbidly obese (BMI 35, range 37 to 56) kidney transplant recipients transplanted between January 1995 and February 2000 were compared with 224 nonobese (BMI 25) kidney recipients transplanted during the same period.

Results: Patient and graft survivals were similar between both groups. Although 3-year graft survival for morbidly obese recipients of cadaver organs was 75% compared with 90% for the nonobese group, this finding was not statistically significant, and 3-year graft survival was 100% for morbidly obese recipients of living donor organs compared with 91% for nonobese recipients. Morbidly obese recipients had significantly longer hospital stays, higher readmission rates, and a higher wound infection rate than nonobese recipients.

Conclusions: We found that morbidly obese persons have 3-year graft and patient survivals similar to nonobese persons. Although they also have greater complications and greater numbers of days in the hospital, we believe these reasons are not sufficient to deny morbidly obese persons the survival and quality-of-life advantages of kidney transplantation.

MeSH terms

  • Actuarial Analysis
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cause of Death
  • Contraindications
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Graft Rejection / epidemiology
  • Graft Rejection / etiology
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / mortality
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery*
  • Kidney Transplantation* / mortality
  • Kidney Transplantation* / psychology
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Living Donors
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity, Morbid / complications*
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Quality of Life
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection / etiology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Washington / epidemiology