Department of Surgery
Chronic kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death nationally, with kidney failure resulting in more than 85,000 deaths and $39 billion in Medicare expenditures annually. Kidney disease is the eighth highest cause of death in South Carolina, with rates for African-Americans twice as high, as compared to Whites. In addition, South Carolina is a predominantly rural (e.g., 75% of the state designated as rural) and relatively poor state (average income roughly 80% of the national average; 22% live below poverty level). Collectively, these factors contribute to South Carolina’s associated health problems for kidney disease and kidney failure.
Kidney transplantation offers the best outcomes for people with kidney failure. Death rates of transplant patients are reduced by nearly half, when compared patients that are maintained on dialysis. Additionally, health care costs are reduced by $50,000 annually per patient. Research conducted within the MUSC Kidney Transplant Program has successfully increased the registration of kidney donors over the past 10 years. However, the need for organs still far outpaces the availability, especially among African-Americans. As living donor transplant recipients tend to have better outcomes, the MUSC Kidney Transplant Program is conducting research studies to develop ways to improve living organ donation, particularly within the African-American community.
There are many additional research activities ongoing within the MUSC Kidney Transplant Program. Some examples of these include testing the effectiveness of novel immunosuppressant medications, which are effective at preventing organ rejection while minimizing side effects. Researchers are also developing methods to improve the long-term survival of both the patient and the graft. Studies are developing strategies to improve the control of common issues seen after transplant, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Improving medication safety is also a paramount issue within transplantation, as most kidney transplant recipients are taking at least half a dozen medications, multiple times per day. Studies have demonstrated that even missing one or two doses a week may increase the risk of rejection and graft loss. Researches at MUSC are using mobile health technology, including cellphones and electronic pillboxes, to help patients remember how and when to take their medications. Early results of this research demonstrate that patients using these devices have improved medication adherence and blood pressure control.