written by
Harvey Mysel

Transplant Update: UNOS data shows the largest drop in organ donations in 20 years

Facts 1 min read

The following is reprinted from the January 2010 issue of Nephrology News & Issues.

As transplant programs get more creative in finding ways to match organ donors and recipients...the transplant community is looking for new approaches to slowing a downward trend in organ donation.

The United Network for Organ Sharing reports that 10,916 organs were donated in the United States in 2009. That is a drop from donations in 2008 of 13,156-the largest year-to-year drop recorded since 1988. The agency shows that organ donation increased steadily from 1988 until 2007 when there was a slight decline. That has continued to slide until the major drop in donations this year.

The drop-in donation is highest among living donors, which is a major source of organs for kidney transplants. The number of living donors dropped from a high of 6,647 in 2004 to 4,727 in 2009. Deceased donors also dropped from 6,325 in 2004 to 5,481 in 2009

Year Living Deceased
2004 6647 6325
2005 6571 6700
2006 6435 7178
2007 6043 7240
2008 5968 7188
2009 4727 5481

That drop in donations has had an impact on organ transplants performed. "The total number of transplants in the United States increased on average by 872 transplants per year between 1998 and 2006. Thus, the decrease of 713 transplants in 2007 represents a substantial divergence from the longstanding trend," UNOS said in its 2008 annual report from the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients." This drop was due largely to decreases in donations, particularly by living donors. There were 423 (6.3%) fewer living donors in 2007 than in 2006. Living donation has been decreasing since 2004."

There are 105,272 people on the national transplant waiting list as of December 2009; of this group, 82,956 are awaiting a kidney transplant.

The 2008 Annual Report of the OPTN and SRTR is based largely on data pertaining to the 10-year period from 1998 to 2007. The full report is available online at http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/ar2008

Why do you think the number of kidney transplants is decreasing? Any ideas on how to reverse the trend? Please share your thoughts.

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