Figures from the Dutch Kidney Foundation show that 2,000 new kidney patients come to the Netherlands every year. Kidney failure is when your kidneys work less than 15 percent. You need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive.
With kidney dialysis, waste substances must be filtered from the blood three times a week. Often a patient has to go to the hospital for this. Patients are only really helped with a transplant: the quality of life improves significantly, and you can also survive longer.
By 2022, 516 kidney transplants will have been performed by a living donor, figures from the Dutch Transplantation Foundation show. In addition, 492 people donated a kidney after death.
According to the Kidney Foundation, this has proven that the new donor law, which came into force in 2020, is a success. 8.1 million people are now registered with consent to donate.
At the same time, the waiting list for a donor kidney continues to grow. In 2022, the number of those waiting increased by 5 percent, from 877 to 923. In 2017, there were only 650.
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Faster on the waiting list
Why? Kidney patients are more often on the waiting list. A trend, says Stefan Berger from the Dutch Transplantation Foundation and kidney specialist (official nephrologist) at UMCG.
The fact that the waiting list is growing in number does not mean that people on it will have to wait longer. “If you get to it earlier, you also get an earlier chance to get a kidney. In addition, one patient has a match earlier than another. So some don’t have to wait long at all.”
It is now even possible for patients to have a preventive transplant. “The kidney is so weakened, but kidney dialysis was not necessarily necessary. It happens occasionally.”
Then there is also another aspect, says Berger. Due to more knowledge about transplantation and more and more routine, the results are better. “More and more people are eligible for transplants, especially among the elderly population. Now people over 75 can get a kidney, that wasn’t the case before.”
Too much salt
If all Dutch people kept to a maximum of 6 grams of salt per day, this would prevent 150,000 cases of chronic kidney damage over a period of 10 years. This is evident from research from RIVM, which was carried out in 2018.
It was the first time that the effect of salt reduction has been studied in this way. Salt reduction would also prevent nearly 250 cases of kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplantation. The fact that people in the Netherlands eat too much salt is nothing new and is largely due to the fact that they eat processed food. According to the Kidney Foundation, the number of people with kidney damage is still growing.
The risk of kidney disease varies greatly from person to person. “It is often genetically determined. It is true that if you have a predisposition for it, that lifestyle can have a huge impact,” explains Berger. “Very salty food, smoking and drinking are risk factors.”
“We now see a greater supply of organs, so kidney patients get a better perspective,” says Mariette Kraayvanger from the Kidney Foundation, who is very satisfied with the consequences of the donor law.
According to Kraayvanger, there has been a catch-up in the past year in terms of the number of living kidney donations. “As a result, fewer people needed dialysis, a treatment that is both physically and emotionally taxing. A timely transplant also reduces the workload of dialysis care staff, who are already overburdened by severe staff shortages.”
The Kidney Foundation is committed to improving the quality of donor kidneys through improved selection and new treatments. As a result, patients can keep a well-functioning donor kidney for a longer period of time.
Kidney specialist Berger says steps are being taken. “In this way, we are able to store the deceased’s organs better. And we can now also transplant more organs that we would have previously rejected by testing them better.”
According to Berger, we are doing quite well in the Netherlands. “And we should be extremely grateful that we have many donors. Transplantation is only possible because of this.”
Kraayvanger is also happy about that. “The positive effect of the donor law is reflected in the numbers. We are grateful that so many people are willing to donate their organs after their death. They give people their lives back. For kidney patients, therefore, both kidney donation after death and kidney donation remain very much needed , while they are alive. We still see people dying waiting for a kidney.”