Live kidney donation by people 55 and older has become more common in the United States in the past two decades, but there have been concerns that giving up a kidney might put older people at increased risk for heart problems and premature death.
Dr. Peter Reese, from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, and colleagues followed more than 3,300 older healthy kidney donors and the same number of older healthy non-donors for an average of nearly eight years.
The donors and non-donors had similar rates of heart disease, diabetes (a risk factor for heart and kidney diseases) and death, according to the study published July 9 in the American Journal of Transplantation.
The findings may reassure older people who are considering donating a kidney and their doctors, the researchers said.
"For too long, when we counseled older people who were considering kidney donation, we were not able to give them good information about their future risk of heart disease," Reese, director of kidney transplant outcomes research at Perelman School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.
"The problem was that prior studies that examined cardiovascular outcomes did not have many older donors," Reese added. "Now we have a reassuring answer. Transplant centers everywhere should provide this new information to older individuals considering kidney donation. These individuals should learn that donation is unlikely to increase their risk of death or heart disease in a meaningful way."
The United Network for Organ Sharing has more about live organ donation.