News Release

Patients with obesity and kidney failure may be newly eligible for kidney transplants

Innovative program connects weight loss surgery and kidney transplant access for patients who have obesity and end-stage renal disease

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American College of Surgeons

Key Takeaways  

  • A collaborative study between bariatric and transplant teams has created a viable pathway for patients with obesity who also have end-stage renal disease to become eligible for kidney transplants through weight loss surgery. 

  •  Postoperative outcomes indicate significant improvements in BMI, hypertension, and diabetes management, enhancing patients’ overall health and transplant viability. 

  • High drop-off rates emphasize the need for enhanced patient education and support.  

CHICAGO: A collaborative study between a bariatric and transplant surgery team has introduced new hope for patients suffering from end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who are also struggling with obesity. The study authors explored the outcomes of metabolic and bariatric surgery in ESRD patients and whether the surgery can improve their eligibility for kidney transplants. The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS)

“Obesity is a worsening problem in the United States, significantly impacting transplant eligibility. We established the CORT initiative – a collaborative for obesity research in transplantation – recognizing the urgent need to address this issue, especially in underserved populations who suffer the most from obesity-related diseases,” said corresponding study author Anil Paramesh, MD, MBA, FACS, professor of surgery, urology, and pediatrics and director of the kidney and pancreas transplant programs at Tulane University School of Medicine.  

Patients with ESRD face many difficulties without a transplant; their only alternative is to prolong life through dialysis, a process that is not only costly and time-intensive but also significantly diminishes quality of life, Dr. Paramesh noted.  

The study, conducted between January 2019 and June 2023, followed 183 ESRD patients referred for bariatric surgery, with 36 undergoing weight loss surgery and 10 subsequently receiving kidney transplants. Results showed a 27% reduction in average BMI at the time of transplant, alongside improvements in hypertension and diabetes management. This improvement in the management of comorbid conditions enhanced patients’ overall health and transplant viability. 

With obesity being a major cause of transplant exclusion, this collaborative program represents a path forward for patients who previously would be ineligible, Dr. Paramesh said, and may help pave the way for increased patient education and access.  

“We’ve seen that bariatric surgery is not just about weight loss; it significantly improves other serious conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. This approach not only helps in reducing the patients’ weight to a level where they can safely receive a transplant, but also addresses the broader issue of health care disparities, particularly affecting Black and lower-income individuals,” said Dr. Paramesh. 

However, the study also faced challenges, including a high drop-off rate of patients unwilling or unable to undergo surgery, and unique postoperative complications such as hypotension.  

“Our findings indicate a pressing need to enhance patient education and support, making sure that potential candidates understand the benefits of weight loss surgery and its role in improving their eligibility for transplant,” said Dr. Paramesh. 

The authors suggest further studies could examine the unique complications ESRD patients may have after weight loss surgery. 

The study is published as an article in press on the JACS website. 

Citation: Levy S, Attia A, Omar M, et al. A Collaborative Approach Between Bariatric and Transplant Surgery Teams Allows a Pathway for Underserved Obese ESRD Patients. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 2024. DOI:10.1097/XCS.0000000000000962 

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About the American College of Surgeons 

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The ACS is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The ACS has approximately 90,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. “FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the ACS.   

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