Kidney Transplant

Unexpected weight loss can be the sign of a serious health problem, especially in kidney transplant patients whose body systems are already under duress. But a new study out of Drexel University suggests that even plan and advise weight loss could also be dangerous for kidney transplant candidates if it’s not closely monitored.

Obese adults with advance kidney disease are often told that they have to lose weight in order to be eligible for a kidney transplant. However, they don’t really have any guidance on the safest way for them to lose the weight,” said Meera Harhay, MD, an associate professor in Drexel’s College of Medicine and Dornsife School of Public Health and lead author of the study, which was recently publish in the American Journal of Kidney Disease.

By analyzing information from more than 94,000 transplant recipients from a 10 year period in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network’s database, Harhay, along with researchers from Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins, found that patients who lost a significant amount of weight 10% or more of their body weight prior to a kidney transplant had an 18% higher risk of death after the transplant.

“We found weight loss to signal higher risk across-the-board,” Harhay said. Regardless of whether the patients were underweight or obese before they lost weight, having a body mass index above 30 or even 40, the study found significant pre-transplant weight loss was strongly associate with longer stays in the hospital following the procedure, other complications, and death.

Regular dialysis treatments

Obesity is common among kidney transplant candidates; so many of whom are only surviving because of regular dialysis treatments; which can also limit energy and physical activity. In fact, nearly 35% of the patients analyze in the study were obese when they were list for transplantation. In many cases transplant surgeons advise these obese patients; so to lose abdominal belly fat before the transplant surgery; hence because it can complicate the healing process of the surgical incision.

But requiring weight loss of obese transplant candidates may cause additional stress on their bodies; hence leading to nutritional deficiencies, or mask unplanned weight loss (from losing muscle mass); which would be a red flag for non-obese patients, according to the researchers. “As a consequence of limit mobility; so patients with end-stage kidney disease; which may try potentially harmful diets and medications to lose weight,” they write.

Without closely monitoring changes in body composition; so”successful” weight loss in an obese patient could cause a physician to overlook; so what would otherwise be a warning sign,” Harhay said. “Our work suggests that we need to be cautious when our patients are losing weight, regardless of BMI. And if we know they’re losing muscle mass rather than fat, we can try to intervene.