Background: Although there has been rapid growth in the global prevalence of Aboriginal patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), these individuals have markedly lower rates of kidney transplantation for reasons that are unclear. We investigated barriers to kidney transplantation for Aboriginal patients treated with hemodialysis for ESRD in Canada.
Methods: All consenting adults in the province of Alberta, Canada, who had been established on hemodialysis therapy for 6 months or longer were interviewed by a physician. Data for transplantation referral, waiting list status, and the assessment process were determined from the regional transplant programs, with race defined by patient self-report. For purposes of this analysis, race was dichotomized as either Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal.
Results: Of 835 subjects, 100 (12%) were Aboriginal. Aboriginal patients were significantly younger and more likely to have diabetes mellitus as the cause of ESRD than non-Aboriginal patients. Although a greater proportion of Aboriginal patients were referred for transplantation assessment (60.6% versus 46.0%; P < 0.01), after adjustment, the likelihood of referral was similar for both racial groups (hazard ratio associated with Aboriginal race, 0.80; 95% confidence interval, 0.59 to 1.08). Aboriginal patients also were significantly less likely to be active on the transplant wait list than non-Aboriginal patients (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.46; 95% confidence interval, 0.27 to 0.78). Aboriginal subjects who had been referred for assessment were significantly more likely than non-Aboriginals to be in the process of completing the transplantation workup (69.6% versus 26.9%; P < 0.01) as opposed to being temporarily or permanently unsuitable for transplantation (30.4% versus 73.3%; P < 0.01). Although not statistically significant, median duration of the workup in progress in referred, but nonlisted, participants appeared longer in Aboriginal participants (954 versus 596 days; P = 0.07).
Conclusion: The likelihood of referral for transplantation was similar between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. However, Aboriginal people were approximately half as likely to be successfully activated to the transplant waiting list compared with non-Aboriginal people. These data suggest that the major barrier to transplantation in Aboriginal patients occurs after referral, but early in the course of evaluation for eligibility.