Organ transplants in the United States reached an all-time high in 2016, making it the fourth year in a row, data from the United Network for Organ Sharing states.
In 2016, there was a total of 33,606 transplants – up by 8.5% increase since 2015 and 19.8% since 2012. Preliminary information attributes this to the growing number of deceased donors, CNN reports. Around 82% of the transplants were from deceased donors, who often agree to provide multiple organs. The remaining 18% came from organs given by living donors.
Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer of the organ sharing network, says that there have been fewer disqualifications for deceased donors. The network is under federal contract and puts together medical experts, donor families and transplant patients together.
There is no uniform criteria for donations or guidelines to follow when it comes to procuring in the donation network, Klassen explains. Instead, donation and transplant professionals rely on their best judgment to assess if an organ is safe for a patient, like whether or not a senior citizen would make a safe donor.
Another reason for the increase in transplants and donors is due to the opioid epidemic facing the country. Klassen says,
The number of donors who died of overdoses increased over the past year.
Donors who have died from overdoses make up close to 25%of the donor pool in some parts of the USA.
While the jump in donation as a result of this epidemic is not something to be proud of, it continues to be a potential source for increasing donors. Klassen points out, “The transplant community is pretty energized in terms of trying to make use of all donors of potential.”
Overall, kidneys are the highest in transplant demand, partly because dialysis can prolong the lives of people waiting for this organ. In 2016, there were 19,057 kidney transplants, 7,841 liver transplants, 3,191 heart transplants and 2,327 lung transplants.
There are 119,053 people now awaiting life-saving organ transplants across the nation.