Disparities in both access to the kidney transplant waiting list and waiting times for transplant candidates have been extensively documented with regard to ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic factors, and region. However, the issue of access to equivalent quality organs has garnered less attention. The principal aim of this study was to determine whether certain patient populations were more likely to receive lower quality organs. This was a retrospective cohort study of all deceased-donor adult renal transplant recipients in the United States from 1996 to 2002 (n = 45,832). Using previously reported categorization of donor quality (I to V), the propensity of transplant recipients to receive lower-quality kidneys in a cumulative logit model was evaluated. Older patients were progressively more likely to receive lower-quality organs (age ≥ 65 yr, odds ratio [OR] = 2.1, P < 0.01) relative to recipients aged 18 to 24 yr. African American and Asian recipients had a greater likelihood of receiving lower-quality organs relative to non-Hispanic Caucasians. Regional allocation networks were highly variable with regard to donor quality. Neither recipient gender (OR = 1.00, P = 0.81) nor patient's primary diagnosis were associated with donor quality. Findings suggest that disparities in the quality of deceased donor kidneys to transplant recipients exist among certain patient groups that have previously documented access barriers. The extent to which these disparities are in line with broad policies of equity and potentially modifiable will have to be examined in the context of allocation policy.
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