More than 3,500 donated kidneys in the U.S. are thrown away every year due to unnecessarily strict rules, according to a report released this week.
On Monday, medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine broke the disturbing news amid the fact that approximately 5,000 people in the U.S. die annually while waiting for a kidney transplant.
"In the United States, 156,089 kidneys were recovered from deceased donors between 2004 and 2014, of which 128,102 were transplanted, and 27,987 (17.9%) were discarded," the study's authors wrote.
The researchers said the numbers are, in part, attributed to "intense regulatory scrutiny" of U.S. transplant programs, which are frequently at risk of losing their credentials if the allograft survival of the donated kidneys they use does not last as long as predicted. Allograft refers to the tissue graft of the donor that is not genetically identical to that of the recipient.
Other factors that have contributed to the alarming number of discarded kidneys reportedly include the financial disincentives associated with transplanting lower-quality kidneys and the inaccurate use of biopsies to determine allograft quality.
"Although biopsies can yield information about scarring, acute kidney injury, or chronic disease, biopsies may also promote needless discard if the pathologic analysis is completed by individuals who lack sufficient time and skill," the authors note.
Though the researchers acknowledge that there is no concrete evidence that proves that transplanting the discarded kidneys would have had any benefits, data shows that the U.S. gets rid of twice as many donated kidneys as France, where the European country's transplant practice has "addressed the unmet need for transplantable organs by accepting lower-quality kidneys from older donors."
A report by the National Kidney Foundation further pointed out that 50 percent of the more than 3,600 kidneys that were discarded in the U.S. in 2016 could have been "transplanted to prolong the lives of Americans otherwise treated with dialysis."
Since then, experts have suggested that U.S. regulations regarding kidney transplants need to change.
"It is recognized that the overly stringent and restrictive process of monitoring transplant programs in the United States has resulted in many transplant programs taking a risk averse approach," doctors Ryoichi Maenosono and Stefan G. Tullius recently wrote. "Hospital administrators and patients alike are attracted by superficial five-star ranking approaches that are easy to read but not necessarily reflective of the approach of individual programs aiming to provide their patients on waiting lists with the best opportunities."
According to CNN, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is currently considering removing certain rules in response to the financial risk that transplant programs face, although nothing has been announced as of yet.