Many U.S. transplant centers accept less-than-ideal kidneys from deceased donors, but their willingness to use such organs varies widely.
That's the conclusion of a study that examined the use of deceased-donor kidneys at 182 transplant centers nationwide.
Researchers found big differences among them in use of less-than-ideal kidneys that was not fully explained by the size of patient waitlists or regional availability of donor organs.
The study also found that when transplant centers were more likely to accept less-than-ideal kidneys, patients had shorter waits for an organ.
The number of U.S. patients waiting for a kidney transplant is on the rise, and about 5,000 die each year while waiting for a deceased donor kidney transplant. Even so, more than 3,500 kidneys -- 20% of those procured for transplantation -- are discarded every year.
The findings were published online Oct. 17 in the journal CJASN.
In July, President Donald Trump signed an order aimed at making more kidneys available for transplant.
"With the recent Executive Order on Advancing American Kidney Health, there is an increased focus on access to transplantation and decreasing organ discards in the United States," said study author Dr. Sumit Mohan, an associate professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.
"This study demonstrates the considerable variation in patterns of kidney utilization by transplant centers across the country," he said in a journal news release. "Additional studies are needed to understand how transplant center choices impact access to transplantation for patients."
Patients who receive a transplant with any quality of kidney have a better chance of survival than those on dialysis, so it's important that donated kidneys -- even less-than-ideal ones -- are offered to patients whenever possible, according to the American Society of Nephrology.
The National Kidney Foundation has more on kidney transplant.