Background: Elderly patients (ages 70 yr and older) are among the fastest-growing group starting renal-replacement therapy in the United States. The outcomes of elderly patients who receive a kidney transplant have not been well studied compared with those of their peers on the waiting list.
Methods: Using the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, we analyzed data from 5667 elderly renal transplant candidates who initially were wait-listed from January 1, 1990 to December 31, 2004. Of these candidates, 2078 received a deceased donor transplant, and 360 received a living donor transplant by 31 December 2005. Time-to-death was studied using Cox regression models with transplant as a time-dependent covariate. Mortality hazard ratios (RRs) of transplant versus waiting list were adjusted for recipient age, sex, race, ethnicity, blood type, panel reactive antibody, year of placement on the waiting list, dialysis modality, comorbidities, donation service area, and time from first dialysis to first placement on the waiting list.
Results: Elderly transplant recipients had a 41% lower overall risk of death compared with wait-listed candidates (RR=0.59; P<0.0001). Recipients of nonstandard, that is, expanded criteria donor, kidneys also had a significantly lower mortality risk (RR=0.75; P<0.0001). Elderly patients with diabetes and those with hypertension as a cause of end-stage renal disease also experienced a large benefit.
Conclusions: Transplantation offers a significant reduction in mortality compared with dialysis in the wait-listed elderly population with end-stage renal disease.