Obesity and kidney transplant candidates: How big is too big for transplantation?

Krista L. Lentine, Rowena Delos Santos, David Axelrod, Mark A. Schnitzler, Daniel C. Brennan, Janet E. Tuttle-Newhall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Obesity impacts many inter-related, and sometimes conflicting, considerations for transplant practice. In this article, we describe an approach for applying available data on the importance of body composition to the kidney transplant population that separates implications for candidate selection, risk stratification among selected candidates, and interventions to optimize health of the individual. Transplant recipients with obesity defined by elevated body mass index (BMI) have been shown in many (but not all) studies to experience an array of adverse outcomes more commonly than normal-weight transplant recipients, including wound infections, delayed graft function, graft failure, cardiac disease, and increased costs. However, current studies have not defined limits of body composition that preclude clinical benefit from transplantation compared with long-term dialysis in patients who have passed a transplant evaluation. Formal cost-effectiveness studies are needed to determine if payers and society should be compensating centers for clinical and financial risks of transplanting obese end-stage renal disease patients. Recent studies also demonstrate the limitations of BMI alone as a measure of adiposity, and further research should be pursued to define practical measures of body composition that refine accuracy for outcomes prediction. Regarding individual management, observational registry studies have not found beneficial associations of pretransplant weight loss with patient or graft survival. However, association studies cannot distinguish purposeful from unintentional weight loss as a result of illness and comorbidity. Prospective evaluations of the impact of targeted risk modification efforts in this population including dietary changes, monitored exercise programs, and bariatric surgery are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-586
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Nephrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Health care costs
  • Kidney transplantation
  • Mortality
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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