This is the largest published series describing renal outcomes in a group of African American live kidney donors. Despite the limitations of this study, the data suggest that African American living donors should be carefully selected and advised to have regular medical follow-up.
To address the risk of adverse renal outcomes in AALKDs relative to non-African American donors, we compare outcomes to those reported in the literature on the general live kidney donor population (most of whom were likely not African American). Prior studies by Ibrahim et al.(6
) provided the most useful information to help us interpret the GFR changes. These demographically different study cohorts (98–99% Caucasian) were used to compare GFR changes post donation (6
). As can be seen in , the proportion of subjects with eGFR or creatinine clearance < 60 ml/min varied widely in both study groups (from 10.3% to 23.1% in AALKDs and from 6.2% to 39.3% in the Minnesota series(6
)); and therefore conclusions about relative risk in the groups varied dramatically depending on which equation was used to calculate glomerular filtration rate or creatinine clearance. However, overall the risk eGFR < 60 ml/min does not appear to be greater in African Americans. We suspect that these differences in renal clearance estimates are due to racial effect on the various eGFR equations. The wide fluctuations in the rate of this outcome and the differing conclusions that would be made about the relative risk in these groups further illustrates the limitations of estimating renal function using serum creatinine in this population. The relative loss of GFR from pre-donation to follow-up several years later of 28% in our group of AALKD's does not appear to be excessive when considering that reports from the literature indicate that the GFR following uni-nephrectomy should settle at approximately 75% of the two-kidney baseline(2
In order to assess the risk of donation from African Americans, our AALKD cohort should be compared to a group of African American individuals with similar baseline characteristics who did not donate a kidney. Unfortunately, we could not find data in the literature that were sufficiently specific to make valid comparisons to our group. Nevertheless, the microalbuminuria prevalence of 15.4% rate in AALKDs appears reassuringly similar to the NHANES III prevalence of 11% in the general population(22
). Although the prevalence of eGFR or creatinine clearance < 60 ml/min in our cohort (17.9% using eGFR(MDRD)) is several times the 4.3% prevalence in the general population(22
), the significance of this finding is uncertain. Were the solitary kidney state to produce progressive CKD in this population, one might expect it to be due to hyperfiltration injury and would thus expect it to be accompanied by albuminuria. Our data are not consistent with this scenario, as only one of the subjects with eGFR(MDRD) < 60 ml/min per 1.73m2
was found to have microalbuminuria, and none had macroalbuminuria. Additionally, the finding that longer intervals between measurements were not associated with greater absolute loss of eGFR(MDRD) also argues against progressive CKD in this cohort. These findings may suggest that these relatively low eGFRs may simply be due to reduced renal mass and/or due to inaccuracies in using serum creatinine to identify individuals with CKD, rather than indicating threatening renal pathology.
It is important to note that the risk of having eGFR(MDRD) < 60 ml/min per 1.73m2 and the magnitude of absolute and relative loss of eGFR(MDRD) were significantly higher in obese (BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2) AALKD's than in non-obese AALKD's. This suggests that the combination of these two risk factors for CKD may be especially problematic in live kidney donors.
The most concerning finding in our study was that 41% of the subjects had developed hypertension within the follow-up period. In order to understand the significance of this incidence of hypertension in our cohort of AALKD's, we can compare it to the values reported in studies of the general population of live kidney donors (most of whom were not African American). In the study by Ibrahim et al.(9
) that reported outcomes on 255 live kidney donors at a mean of 12.2 years post donation, they found that 24.7% were on anthihypertensive medications and that 7.5% had newly diagnosed hypertension. In their study, the mean BP was 122/73, as compared to 121/80 mmHg in our group. Additionally, among the 48 studies included in a recent meta-analysis by Boudville et al.(23
) that addressed the risk for hypertension in the general population of living kidney donors, they found a 5 mmHg increase in blood pressure over that anticipated with normal aging and that the incidence of hypertension varied markedly among the studies – from 0 to 62%, with a crude mean of 19%.
More important than whether AALKD's have a higher risk for hypertension than non-African American donors is what the effect of donating will have on blood pressure in AALKD's. This issue is addressed by comparing the rate of hypertension in AALKD's to African Americans who have not donated. Given that no donors had a diagnosis of hypertension at the time of donation, one should not apply prevalence data from the whole population of African Americans (many of whom would have already been hypertensive at the index time corresponding to donation). Rather, we should compare the incidence rates in the groups. Unfortunately, we could not find applicable incidence rates in the literature. Utilizing the NHANES data (24
) the prevalence of hypertension for non-Hispanic black men is approximately 20% in the 30–39 year old age group and 36% in the 40–49 year old age group. The prevalence of hypertension for non-Hispanic black women is approximately 10% in the 30–39 year old age group and 28% in the 40–49 year old age group. Given that the mean age of the donors in our cohort at the time of donation (when none had a hypertension) was 37 years old and the mean age at follow up was 44 years old, the “average” donor aged from the former to the latter age group during this study; and therefore these prevalence rates in these age groups could be cautiously used to estimate a control incidence of hypertension in non-donating African Americans. An incidence rate of 41% over 7.1 years of follow up is clearly higher than the incidence rate that would be expected in the general African American population.
On the other hand, it is certainly plausible that the proportion of study subjects with hypertension may be higher than the proportion in the whole AALKD population, as suggested by findings in the meta-analyses by Boudville et al. that showed that the higher the proportion of donors lost to follow-up in a study, the higher the reported increase in blood pressure(23
). Although the true significance of the 41% incidence of hypertension is debatable, this high proportion of AALKD's with hypertension in our cohort is concerning given that hypertension may be more nephrotoxic in African Americans and given that individuals with one kidney have less renal reserve. Of further concern is that half of these individuals did not know that their blood pressure was high. On the other hand, we found it somewhat comforting that no subject had worse than stage 1 HTN at the time of evaluation and that the hypertensive group of donors had not experienced a greater loss of eGFR(MDRD).
It is important to appreciate the limitations of our study. First, our assessment of renal function and our ability to reliably identify individuals with CKD was limited by our reliance on serum creatinine, and inaccuracies of using the commonly used serum creatinine-based estimation equations in individuals without known CKD has been well described(6
). Clearly all of the renal function estimation techniques that we utilized have important limitations in this population. Still, it should be noted that a recent study by Ibrahim et al. indicated that the eGFR(MDRD) and actual CG-ClCr provide estimates of GFR in former kidney donors that are within the clinically acceptable range of actual GFR(6
). Second, with only 36% of invited subjects completing the evaluation in the GCRC, the broad applicability of our findings to the larger AALKD population is uncertain, even though our comparison of the baseline parameters of those AALKDs who participated versus those who did not participate did not reveal significant differences. It should be noted that this critical limitation has plagued nearly all long-term donor follow up studies, including the recent landmark study by Ibrahim et al. that achieved a 14.3% participation in follow-up iohexol GFR measurements(9
). Those subjects who decided to participate may have done so because they had reason to be concerned about their health, such that the rates of pathology may be overestimated relative to the whole AALKD population. Alternatively, one could hypothesize that the subjects who take the time to participate were more likely to be the type of person who takes good care of himself/herself.
In conclusion, this study demonstrates the following:
- A substantial percentage of AALKDs will develop hypertension within several years of donation.
- AALKDs lose a significant proportion of their eGFR(MDRD) after donating a kidney. However, the magnitude of change appears to be similar to that observed in the general kidney donor population, and we found no evidence that the loss of GFR is progressive.
- Obesity may be a risk factor for renal dysfunction after live kidney donation in AALKDs.
Our findings strongly argue for the need for further study to guide the selection and counseling of potential AALKD's. Our findings also indicate that close monitoring of AALKDs for HTN and CKD is clearly warranted.