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The use of kidneys donated after circulatory death (DCD) remains controversial due to concerns with regard to high incidences of early graft loss, delayed graft function (DGF), and impaired graft survival. As these concerns are mainly based on data from historical cohorts, they are prone to time-related effects and may therefore not apply to the current timeframe. To assess the impact of time on outcomes, we performed a time-dependent comparative analysis of outcomes of DCD and donation after brain death (DBD) kidney transplantations. Data of all 11,415 deceased-donor kidney transplantations performed in The Netherlands between 1990-2018 were collected. Based on the incidences of early graft loss, two eras were defined (1998-2008 [n = 3,499] and 2008-2018 [n = 3,781]), and potential time-related effects on outcomes evaluated. Multivariate analyses were applied to examine associations between donor type and outcomes. Interaction tests were used to explore presence of effect modification. Results show clear time-related effects on posttransplant outcomes. The 1998-2008 interval showed compromised outcomes for DCD procedures (higher incidences of DGF and early graft loss, impaired 1-year renal function, and inferior graft survival), whereas DBD and DCD outcome equivalence was observed for the 2008-2018 interval. This occurred despite persistently high incidences of DGF in DCD grafts, and more adverse recipient and donor risk profiles (recipients were 6 years older and the KDRI increased from 1.23 to 1.39 and from 1.35 to 1.49 for DBD and DCD donors). In contrast, the median cold ischaemic period decreased from 20 to 15 hours. This national study shows major improvements in outcomes of transplanted DCD kidneys over time. The time-dependent shift underpins that kidney transplantation has come of age and DCD results are nowadays comparable to DBD transplants. It also calls for careful interpretation of conclusions based on historical cohorts, and emphasises that retrospective studies should correct for time-related effects.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Brain Death, Death, Sudden, Cardiac, Delayed Graft Function, Glomerular Filtration Rate, Graft Rejection, Humans, Kidney Failure, Chronic, Kidney Transplantation, Middle Aged, Multivariate Analysis, Netherlands, Odds Ratio, Proportional Hazards Models, Tissue Donors, Tissue and Organ Procurement, Treatment Outcome