• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Older organ donors are giving new hope

August 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
More than 90,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a kidney. In some parts of the country, it can take up to 10 years, which means many in need may die before an organ becomes available.

To help the delay, doctors are starting to consider using organs from older donors.

"You're not too old. If you're healthy, you can donate, even if you're over 70," said Dr. Dorry Segev, an associate professor of surgery and epidemiology.

Segev recently conducted a study that found patients who received donated kidneys from people over 70 were not any more likely to die within 10 years of transplantation compared to people who received kidneys from younger donors. Also, the older donors lived longer than non-donors of the same age.

"We are realizing that if somebody is healthy, chronological age is not the same as medical age," Segev said.

However, the research shows kidneys from older donors are more likely to fail within 10 years compared to kidneys from younger donors. The doctor said they are still a better option than waiting for an organ from a deceased donor - and they could help lessen the national shortage.

"If we can bring forward more healthy older adults, then they can make a huge impact," Segev said.

Segev said older organ donations are becoming more common. He said older deceased donors may also be considered as long as their organs are healthy.