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How Racially Based Algorithms Delay Kidney Transplants for Black Patients

Updated: Feb 7, 2023

Racial Health Inequalities for Black patients.



What eGFR and what does that have to do with Kidneys?


eGFR is the estimated glomerular filtration rate. It tells a kidney patient their level of kidney function and determines their stage of kidney disease. It’s calculated by blood creatinine test, age, body size, and gender. It was also calculated by race at the time of this article (in 2021).


For kidney patients, the higher the eGFR the better. (As long as the calculation was accurate.) If the eGFR was low, kidney patient would be at a increased risk of going into kidney failure.



Racial Inequalities in Medicine


In the 19th century, it was believed that Black people had more muscle mass than White people.


This myth has since been dispelled, but in 1999 it was used by policymakers to create an eGFR calculation specifically for Black people, citing more muscle mass slowed the the disease.

Scientifically, there are no biological differences between the races. Race is a social construct, not a biological one. This means the theory used to create the calculator was false.



The eGFR Prevented Black Patients from Receiving Transplants


Because of medical racism, Black patients did not have accurate eGFR calculations. Proper calculations can help stop or slow kidney failure.



Break Down of eGFR Calculations on White Patients vs Black Patients


A White person with a creatinine of 1.40 would have a eGFR of 39%. A Black personal with the same creatinine would have a eGFR of 45%. The means that the White person is closer to qualifying for a kidney transplant than the Black person with the same creatinine levels.



Racial Variables Removed


Thankfully the National Kidney Foundation has been working tirelessly to get the racial variable removed from eGFR calculations. On September 23, 2021 they won that battle.


It’s going to take some time to see the trickle down effects of this ruling. We will soon see changes in how our eGFR is calculated by labs.


 

This page contains general medical information. Medical knowledge and practice can change rapidly. Therefore, this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

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