NBC NEWS — Half a million Americans are on dialysis, a process that mimics the role of the kidneys by removing waste, salt and extra water from the blood.
"Conventional wisdom in the field of dialysis is that African-Americans do better on dialysis than Caucasians," stated Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon. A new study is challenging that theory.
Researchers looked at the medical records of over a million patients with advanced kidney disease. When they broke down the data by age, they were surprised to find the benefit did not apply to patients under age 50.
The youngest African-American patients were actually twice as likely to die on dialysis when compared to their white counterparts.
Yet these patients were advised to stick with dialysis, rather than try for a kidney transplant based on the old research, which doctors say need to change.
"The previous studies had masked the differences between the young people and the old people," said Segev. “If you are African-American and young and on dialysis you need to pursue kidney transplantation. You need to look for a living donor, you need to pursue getting on a waiting list."
Doctors aren't sure why young African-American dialysis patients have such a large disadvantage.
They say these patients may have less access to doctors because they're not old enough to qualify for MediCare, and they are likely sicker than older African-American patients when they start dialysis.