Obese Organ Donors Turned Away

Are Obese Organ Donors Turned Away?Do you think that obesity only affects those who need to lose the weight? CDL Life’s health and wellness expert Abby explains how obesity affects others around you and those you love and how slimming down could not only save your life but the lives of others.

Obese Donors Ineligible to Donate 

By Abby Lowe– CDL Life Health and Wellness

A new issue has come up to coincide with the obesity epidemic. Obese patients, who are organ donors, are being declared ineligible to donate due to their body weight.

Although there is not exact weight limit to being an organ donor, many transplant centers are beginning to require a body mass index of less than 35. Some transplant centers are not allowing donors with a BMI over 30.

There is an increasing shortage of donor kidneys due to the stricter measures being put in place for the donating patient. In the last three years at the North Shore University Hospital Transplant Center on Long Island, 104 people contacted the hospital to become potential donors.

Unfortunately, 23 of these potential donors had a BMI greater than 35 causing them to be ineligible to donate. The good news is some of these patients chose to lose weight in order to become eligible to donate. Another 24 of the potential donors had a BMI over 30, and would be rejected at some other hospitals.

This problem becomes a slippery slope for anyone who is considered morbidly obese. Kidney disease has seen a rise in prevalence due to increasing chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, which are closely related to obesity. There are more than 92,000 patients waiting on a kidney transplant and fewer potential organ donors being eligible to donate.

So what exactly are doctors worried about?

First of all, obese donors have an increased risk for complications during surgery. Not only that, the question doctors are asking themselves has to do with future kidney disease on the obese patient who is donating a kidney. Being obese increases the risk of kidney failure, so will the obese donors potentially get kidney failure sooner than they otherwise would have with two kidneys? Maybe, maybe not.

No studies have been done to confirm or deny these risks. The biggest concern with an obese patient having only one kidney, is overworking that one kidney and possibly causing an increased risk of disease.

Another organ causing strife among the obese population of donors is the liver. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is very common in those who are obese. Not only making it even riskier to extract the liver from the donor, but also causing a potentially less successful transplant to the liver receiver.

One solution hospitals have come up with is to set up donor wellness programs to help the obese donors lose weight. These programs may include nutrition classes, counseling, and some physical activity. Once enough weight is lost, the potential donor may receive further donor screening and genetic matching. Advocates of programs like these are also hoping that doctors will continue to follow-up and see the patient for several months post organ removal to make sure the donor is taking care of his or her body. Then not only is the person receiving the transplant getting the chance to live longer, the donor is making a healthy lifestyle change that could do the same of him or her.