Filed Under:  Health & Wellness

Young Blacks twice as likely to die on dialysis

22nd August 2011   ·   1 Comment

BALTIMORE, MD—A new study may change the way doctors treat their dialysis patients. Past research suggested that black patients on dialysis survive longer than whites, but a new study finds that this does not hold true for young black patients.

In fact, young blacks are twice as likely to die while on dialysis.
Half a million Americans are on dialysis: A process that mimics the role of the kidneys by removing waste, salt, and extra water from the blood.

Dorry Segev, M.D., PhD, Transplant Surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who led the study, says “Conventional wisdom in the field of dialysis is that African Americans do better on dialysis than Caucasians.”

But Segev’s study is challenging that theory. Researchers looked at the medical records of over a million patients with advanced kidney disease. When they broke down the data by age they were surprised to find the benefit did not apply to patients under age 50.

Dr. Segev says “The previous studies had masked the differences between the young people and the old people.”

The youngest Black patients were actually twice as likely to die on dialysis when compared to their white counterparts.

Yet these patients were advised to stick with dialysis rather than try for a kidney transplant based on the old research.

Something doctors say needs to change based on the new study.

Dr. Segev says “If you are African American and young and on dialysis you need to pursue kidney transplantation. You need to look for a living donor, you need to pursue getting on a waiting list.”

Doctors aren’t sure why young Black dialysis patients have such a large disadvantage. They say these patients may have less access to doctors because they’re not old enough to qualify for medicare and they are likely sicker than older Black patients when they start dialysis.

Researchers say there are 50,000 black dialysis patients under the age of 50 in the U.S. and all should be impacted by this new study.

This article was originally published in the August 22, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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