Health Expert: Kidney Function Test Has Been Negatively Impacting African Americans For Years

Dr. Lina Mackelaite said the reason race was added to the test equation was that people were under the assumption African Americans had higher muscle mass.

UofL Health says the nationwide test that was used to see how well your kidney is functioning has been negatively impacting African American patients for years.

According to UofL Health, African Americans are at a higher risk to develop kidney disease and they’re approximately four times as likely to develop kidney failure.

They say by far the best treatment for kidney disease is a transplant; it adds seven years to a recipient’s life on average they said.

But a major problem was, for years, African Americans were not getting put on kidney transplant lists when they should have been.

To calculate how well a kidney is functioning doctors would use an equation to calculate a ‘GFR.’ The factors would be age, sex, the amount of creatinine in your blood, and for a long time, race.

Dr. Lina Mackelaite said the reason the coefficient was added was that people were under the assumption African Americans had higher muscle mass.

“Well, the problem is that there’s no good evidence that African American people actually have high muscle mass. This was based on really poor, poorly conducted, little studies and it was just assumed they have higher muscle mass, and nobody ever looked until now to see if that’s true,” Mackelaite said.

The coefficient in the equation falsely projected higher functioning kidneys for African American patients and it would take them longer to get put on kidney transplant lists.

Now UofL Health says they are sending out letters to all their patients who have undergone this test. They say they are going through their whole transplant list to find patients who have been falsely listed later than they should have been to correct this mistake.

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UofL Health

UofL Health is a fully integrated regional academic health system with eight hospitals, four medical centers, Brown Cancer Center, Eye Institute, nearly 200 physician practice locations, and more than 1,000 providers in Louisville and the surrounding counties, including southern Indiana. Additional access to UofL Health is provided through a partnership with Carroll County Memorial Hospital. With more than 13,000 team members – physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and other highly-skilled health care professionals, UofL Health is focused on one mission: to transform the health of communities we serve through compassionate, innovative, patient-centered care.

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