In a study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, data were collected from 1998 to 2017 on two cohorts of patients with kidney failure. The first cohort, a dialysis cohort, included 1,970 patients with sickle cell disease and approximately 2 million patients with other conditions. The second cohort, the “transplant waitlist cohort,” consisted of 507 patients with sickle cell disease and 463,298 patients with other conditions.
Ultimately, it was found that compared to their control counterparts, patients with sickle cell disease were significantly more likely to experience dialysis mortality and significantly less likely to receive transplants. However, both patients with sickle cell disease and those without the disease experienced significant and comparable reductions in mortality when they received transplants.
Study author Tanjala Purnell, who serves as Associate Director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, stated, “Our first hypothesis was that the sickle cell population is more likely to die while waiting for a kidney, but the sickle cell population was still less likely to receive transplants even after we adjusted for the differences in mortality…This suggests that there could be other systemic disparities that serve as barriers to transplantation for the sickle cell population.”
In conclusion, although the benefits of kidney transplant are similar for patients with kidney failure secondary to sickle cell disease and those with kidney failure resulting from other causes, those with sickle cell disease were found to be significantly less likely to receive transplants. A call to action is made to improve access to kidney transplants for patients with sickle cell disease .