Aims: Kidney transplant units in Australia are confined to large hospitals in major metropolitan areas, yet this may limit access and diminish outcomes in people who do not live in these large centres. The authors examined the viability of a kidney transplant unit located in northern Australia (NA), with particular emphasis on recipient outcomes and the number of donors.
Methods: ‘Northern Australia’ was arbitrarily defined as ‘north of the tropic of Capricorn’ for Queensland and Western Australia and included the entire Northern Territory. Data on donors and transplant recipients were provided by ANZDATA and ANZOD registries, identified by postcode.
Results: Between 1998 and 2004 in NA there were 163 deceased donor kidneys and 97.5% of available organs were transplanted. There were no Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) donors from NA. Recipients from NA in this time included 55 patients receiving living grafts and 156 receiving deceased donor grafts, of whom 36% were ATSI, making up half of the total ATSI transplanted in Australia during this time period. Compared with the rest of Australia, NA recipients were older, waited longer on dialysis, had longer ischaemic times and a greater number of human leucocyte antigen mismatches, and were more likely to be diabetic and obese. Despite the longer cold ischaemic time in NA recipients, no difference in immediate graft function was seen. ATSI recipients in NA, when compared with their southern Australian counterparts, had poorer patient survival (HR = 3.19, 95% CI 1.44–7.08, P < 0.001), but equivalent graft survival (HR = 1.67, 95% CI 0.95–2.95, P = not significant) on multivariate analysis. Key factors that would influence feasibility of a Northern Australian transplant unit include adequate staffing, and support services in addition to currently available resources.
Conclusion: Current donor numbers in NA are adequate for past recipients of kidney transplant, but may not cover future needs without a significant increase in donor rate. A transplant unit situated in northern Australian would require significant resources to ensure long-term viability and its effect on outcomes is uncertain.