Background: Kidney transplantation generally improves long-term survival in patients with end-stage renal disease. However, in patients older than 70 years of age, only limited data are available that directly compare the potential survival benefit of transplantation versus dialysis.
Methods: All patients aged above 70 years who started dialysis between 1990 and 2005 and were waitlisted for kidney transplantation were included in the study. They were categorized according to time periods of inclusion (1990-99 vs 2000-05). Survival rates of altogether 286 dialysis patients were analyzed with a Kaplan-Meier model, as well as with a time-dependent Cox model. Comparisons were made between those who received a transplant and those who did not, and further between the two time periods.
Results: Median age at inclusion was 73.6 years (interquartile range 72.3-75.6). Two hundred and thirty-three patients (81%) received a kidney transplant during follow-up. Transplant recipients experienced an increased mortality in the first year after transplantation when compared to waitlisted patients. Patients starting dialysis between 1990 and 1999 had no significant long-term benefit of transplantation; HR for death 1.01 (0.58-1.75). In contrast, there was a substantial long-term benefit of transplantation among those starting dialysis after 2000; HR for death 0.40 (0.19-0.83), P = 0.014.
Conclusions: Survival after kidney transplantation in patients over 70 years has improved during the last decade and offers a survival advantage over dialysis treatment. Our experience supports the use of kidney transplantation in this age group if an increased early post-operative risk is accepted. This transplant policy may be challenged for priority reasons.