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How Does Food Insecurity Affect Pediatric Kidney Transplant?

January 22, 2021

Researchers at the internationally-recognized Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago have launched a new pilot study to assess the prevalence and impact of food insecurity (FI) in pediatric kidney recipients. The study could inform interventions to improve transplant success in vulnerable children.

With more than 700 pediatric kidney transplants performed to date – 20% in children under five – the high volume at Lurie Children’s offers an unprecedented opportunity to comprehensively study FI in this particular population. The first-of-its-kind study will focus on FI’s impact on transplant outcomes including rejection episodes, presence of hypertension, medication non-adherence and decline in kidney function.

“We hypothesize that there will be an increased prevalence of FI in our kidney transplant patients and this may be associated with higher rates of transplant rejection and graft dysfunction”, said transplant nephrologist Priya Verghese, MD, MPH, Division Head of Pediatric Nephrology at Lurie Children’s.

Children are particularly vulnerable to FI, and rates have climbed with the onset of COVID-19. Child food insufficiency is associated with postponed medical care, increased ED visits, and higher care costs. Verghese notes studies have found children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have especially high FI rates. “As a result, FI increases the risk of developing end-stage kidney disease in patients with CKD,” she said. The new study will determine if the consequences of FI extend post-operatively for young patients who receive a kidney transplant.

Already, Lurie Children's has identified food insecurity as a modifiable barrier to positive health outcomes and is prospectively screening patients and their families for FI in the Kidney Transplant Clinic. The work is a part of the family-centered care that begins long before a kidney transplant occurs. Potential and eventual kidney recipients at Lurie Children’s also benefit from a specialty team of nephrologists, researchers, transplant surgeons, anesthesiologists, urologists, dieticians, social workers, child life specialists, and others who all collaborate to address the complex needs of patients and families throughout the transplant process.

Learn more about the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program.