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Surgery

Patients with type O blood face longest odds in getting new orga

16 years, 11 months ago

12473  0
Posted on Sep 30, 2002, 6 a.m. By Bill Freeman

Americans with blood type O - universal donors who can give to anyone - are the least likely to receive a new liver, heart or lung. Because their organs are transplanted into patients with all sorts of blood types, the wait for type O patients, who can only use type O organs, is extensive. Very sick liver patients with blood type O are one and a half times more likely to die waiting for a transplant than similar patients with other types, according to statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing, which runs the nation's transplant system.

Americans with blood type O - universal donors who can give to anyone - are the least likely to receive a new liver, heart or lung. Because their organs are transplanted into patients with all sorts of blood types, the wait for type O patients, who can only use type O organs, is extensive. Very sick liver patients with blood type O are one and a half times more likely to die waiting for a transplant than similar patients with other types, according to statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing, which runs the nation's transplant system. Hoping to rectify the disparity, the network is considering new restrictions on the use of type O organs. The proposal would affect liver transplants, raising the bar for how sick non-O patients must be before they are offered O livers. The challenge is to balance the needs of individual patients with the goals of a national system. On any given day, experts say, it makes sense to give a type O liver or heart to a very sick patient with blood type A or B, rather than a type O patient who is stable and can wait longer.

For livers in 1994-96, the typical type 0 patient waited a year and nine days. That's four months longer than those with blood type B and more than five months longer than patients with blood type A, according to statistics from the network's 1997 report on waiting times, the most recent available. For heart transplants, type O patients wait more than four times as long as patients with AB blood, and more than twice as long as those with A or B. In the case of kidneys, type O patients face similar disparities, although statistics show that patients with type B blood wait the longest. That's because there are a disproportionate number of black patients waiting for new kidneys, and they are more likely to have type B blood. For lungs, type O organs are reserved for type O patients, and the disparities are smallest.

The change being considered by the transplant network would affect patients who are in the hospital but do not face imminent death. It would prohibit use of O livers for these patients with blood types A or AB. Patients with blood type B, which is quite rare, could still get O livers. Even with the policy change, for every one person who gets a new organ, another won't. Last year, 6,012 people died waiting for all types of organs.

SOURCE/REFERENCE: Reported by Onhealth, 6/8/00

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