Study: Obesity May Lead to Shortage of Organs for Transplantation

H. Scott English

A new study has indicated that people who suffer from morbid obesity may be contributing to a shortage of organs for donation and may actually be decreasing the amount of living kidney donors available to give to others.

In an analysis of 104 potential kidney donors, researchers at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research found that 23 percent of the patients were classified as morbidly obese. A person who is classified as morbidly obese is not able to donate an organ.

The researchers also found that only 18% of study participants fell into a normal weight range. The remaining participants ranged from overweight to morbidly obese.

Dr. Mala Sachdeva, assistant professor of medicine at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research said in a statement published by Fox News,

"This is the first time the pre-donation period was studied [in regards to organ transplants],…Nobody has studied the pre-donation period and how many are excluded based on obesity. Just looking at these findings, we can definitely see obesity is a problem here. On a local level, we're seeing it's limiting the number of living donors, and it needs to be explored on a national level. I would not be surprised if we see similar findings. Something needs to be done – we can't wait on this. We have more than 92 candidates on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, and nearly a quarter of people who could donate are excluded based on obesity."

Obese people are largely considered bad candidates for organ transplantation due to the strain the surgery and healing will put on their bodies. At times, Obese donors are put on diet and behavior management programs and doctors chart their progress monthly to determine if their eligibility has changed. Only 3% of those who try to lose the weight and become donors succeed.

Sachdeva offered the following recommendation for obese participants:

"We need to target that 30 percent who are really motivated to lose weight. What can we do differently? We could put them in a more rigorous weight loss program, have closer follow-up, offer motivational support groups or even in some participants – if their BMI permits – consider bariatric surgery."