The number of Canadians living with end-stage kidney disease is rising.

At the end of 2009, 37,744 Canadians were living with kidney failure — more than triple the number recorded in 1990, a new report released Thursday shows.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information's report on treatment of end-stage organ failure in Canada is based on data from 2000 to 2009, the most current year available.

An estimated 37,744 Canadians were living with kidney failure at the end of 2009. Of these, 22,310 were on dialysis and 15,434 were living with a kidney transplant.

The report says that of the 1,224 kidney recipients, 187 received pre-emptive transplants, which are becoming an increasingly important treatment option in Canada.

Pre-emptive transplants may be offered to patients whose disease is not advanced enough to qualify for a transplant under conventional criteria.  

Claire Marie Fortin, CIHI's manager of clinical registries, says the report contains two pieces of good news.

"What we are talking about is almost 38,000 people living with kidney failure and the number of new cases is stabilizing from 53 per cent to 59 per cent.

"Stabilizing is a good sign," Fortin says. "It means the treatment in the earlier stages of kidney disease is more effective."  

Another piece of good news in this report, Fortin says, is that people developing kidney disease are older. 

Of those who received renal replacement therapy in 2009, 54 per cent were over age 65, compared with 33 per cent in 1990 over that age.  

The report also dealt with liver, heart, lung and pancreas transplants.

At the end of 2009, there were:

  • 551 Canadians waiting for a liver.
  • 136 Canadians awaiting a heart transplant.
  • 245 waiting to get a lung.
  • 56 on the list for a pancreas and kidney.  

An emerging field for transplants is the small intestine. Fortin noted this kind of transplant is complex and challenging. 

Nevertheless, Canadian doctors performed 51 such procedures between 1990 and 2009, with more than half of the recipients younger than age 18.  

The first kidney transplant was done in the U.S. in December 1954, when Ronald Lee Herrick donated a kidney to this twin brother, who died in December 2010 of heart failure at age 79.