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Reducing the wait for kidney transplants

NSF Award:

Addressing Geographical Disparities in Transplant Organ Accessibility Across United States  (Northwestern University)

Congressional Districts:
Research Areas:

Of the nearly 100,000 people in need of a kidney transplant each year, only about 17,000 receive one. A critical reason for this disparity is geographic location. One option for increasing the number of recipients may lie in an optimization model developed by researchers at Northwestern University.

The goal of the computer model is to more fairly distribute donor kidneys across geographic locations while also accounting for transplant system constraints and priorities. If implemented, such analyses could help reduce wait times for kidney transplants and potentially improve patient outcomes.

Currently, transplant policies designate geographic limits and determine eligibility by a patient's proximity to an available kidney. In addition, the policies list criteria governing whether a donated kidney is of sufficient quality for transplantation.

The optimization model addresses both issues, encouraging states to adopt policies that facilitate better distribution to areas of high need, and encouraging transplant centers with long wait times to consider less stringent standards for donor kidneys. These recommendations were presented to the United Network of Organ Sharing, which sets policy for distributing kidneys.



  • an illustration of a kidney during a live donor transplant
An illustration of a kidney, renal artery and renal vein during a live donor transplant.
Brian Evans

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