SAN DIEGO—Get-togethers with a kidney disease patients’ family and friends may improve their willingness to consider donation, according to a new report.

The findings suggest that group education of patients’ relatives and friends may help alleviate the organ shortage and increase the number of living donations.

While kidney transplantation from a living donor is the best treatment option for most patients with kidney failure, living donation is often overlooked because family members and friends are not aware that they could be potential donors, and patients are reluctant or embarrassed to ask their loved ones for a kidney.

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Researchers from the Netherlands developed an intervention that addresses both of these issues. They invited relatives and friends of kidney disease patients to attend a meeting, usually at the patient’s home, to learn about kidney disease, its impact on life, and how they could help the patient.

An experienced hospital social worker and a trained nurse practitioner took part in the discussions, and they provided information on the differences between dialysis and kidney transplantation, including the risks and benefits of living kidney donation for both recipient and donor. 

In all 10 groups that participated in these discussions, the patients, relatives, and friends unanimously welcomed the approach and felt an improved understanding and bonding with the group. The researchers found that within three months, potential kidney donors came forward from all 10 groups.

Investigators presented study findings here at the American Society of Nephrology’s Renal Week conference.