Although over 90 000 people are on the kidney transplant waitlist in the United States, some kidneys that are viable for transplantation are discarded. Transplant surgeons are more likely to discard deceased donors with acute kidney injury (AKI) versus without AKI (30% versus 18%). AKI is defined using changes in creatinine from baseline. Transplant surgeons can use DonorNet data, including admission, peak, and terminal serum creatinine, and biopsy data when available to differentiate kidneys with AKI from those with chronic injury. Although chronic kidney disease is associated with reduced graft survival, an abundance of literature has demonstrated similar graft survival for deceased donors with AKI versus donors without AKI. Donors with AKI are more likely to undergo delayed graft function but have similar long-term outcomes as donors without AKI. The mechanism for similar graft survival is unclear. Some hypothesized mechanisms include (1) ischemic preconditioning; (2) posttransplant and host factors playing a greater role in long-term survival than donor factors; and (3) selection bias of transplanting only relatively healthy donor kidneys with AKI. Existing literature suggests transplanting more donor kidneys with stage 1 and 2 AKI, and cautious utilization of stage 3 AKI donors, may increase the pool of viable kidneys. Doing so can reduce the number of people who die on the waitlist by over 500 every year.
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