Racial disparities persist in the United States renal transplantation process. Previous studies suggest that the distance between a patient's residence and the transplant facility may associate with disparities in transplant waitlisting. We examined this possibility in a cohort study using data for incident, adult ESRD patients (1998 to 2002) from the ESRD Network 6, which includes Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. We linked data with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) transplant registry through 2005 and with the 2000 U.S. Census geographic data. Of the 35,346 subjects included in the analysis, 12% were waitlisted, 57% were black, 50% were men, 20% were impoverished, 45% had diabetes as the primary etiology of ESRD, and 73% had two or more comorbidities. The median distance from patient residence to the nearest transplant center was 48 mi. After controlling for multiple covariates, distance from patient residence to transplant center did not predict placement on the transplant waitlist. In contrast, race, neighborhood poverty, gender, age, diabetes, hypertension, body mass index, albumin, and the use of erythropoietin at dialysis initiation was associated with waitlisting. As neighborhood poverty increased, the likelihood of waitlisting decreased for blacks compared with whites in each poverty category; in the poorest neighborhoods, blacks were 57% less likely to be waitlisted than whites. This study suggests that improving the allocation of kidneys may require a focus on poor communities.
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