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50 Organ Donation Statistics & Facts That Could Save Lives

by Mirjana Dobric

Organ donation saves millions of lives, and it would save even more if people knew the right organ donation statistics. Organ donors are in high demand, but people are afraid of becoming donors since they usually have the wrong information about how it all works.

Numerous misconceptions and myths surround the process of organ donation, and it holds people back from registering as donors—and potentially saving lives. Because of this, the number of needed organ donations outreaches the number of available donated organs.

If you, or someone you know, need an organ transplant, don’t lose hope. Just take a look at the following statistics and facts, and you’ll see you’re not alone in this.

Top 10 Organ Donation Facts and Statistics to Remember for 2020:

  • Every 10 minutes a new person is added to the organ transplant waiting list.
  • Worldwide, more than 100,000 organs are transplanted every year.
  • Approximately 8,000 liver transplants are done every year in the United States alone.
  • Every year, over 5,000 heart transplants occur around the world.
  • More than 10,000 kidney transplants are done every year.
  • In 2018, there were over 130,000 whole eyes and corneas donated.
  • The organ donation stats also show that there have been over 50,000 lung transplants in the world.
  • The average waiting time for a transplant is more than one year.
  • More than 3,000 people die every year because they can’t find a bone marrow donor.
  • In the US each year, approximately 16,000 of all IVF cycles use donor eggs.

If you want to know more about the process of organ donation and which organs can be donated, keep reading.

General Organ Transplant Statistics

1. Every 10 minutes another person is added to the organ transplant waiting list.

(UCI Health) 

The number of people on the waiting list is on the constant rise. Even though the number of new donors is also on the rise, the number of people on the organ transplant waiting list is exceeding both the number of available donors and total transplantation procedures performed.

2. A single donor can save up to 8 lives.

(Donate Life America) 

According to the organ transplant facts, one person can donate their heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, and intestines. Cornea donation could give two people the gift of sight back, and tissue donation could heal and change the lives of as many as 75 people.

3. Worldwide, more than 100,000 organs are transplanted every year.

(WHO)

Most of them are kidney transplants (almost 70,000). Of these, nearly half are from living donors. Liver transplants are the second most common type of organ transplant, with over 20,000 transplants a year and close to 15% coming from living donors. There are also over 5,000 heart transplants, 3,000 lung transplants, and more than 2,000 pancreas transplants.

Liver Transplant Facts

Organ Donation Statistics - Liver

4. In the United States alone, approximately 8,000 liver transplants are done every year.

(Healthline) 

Doctors usually recommend a liver transplant when end-stage liver disease occurs. If other treatments for liver disease are ineffective, the patient might die without a transplant. Liver failure and chronic liver disease are the most common causes for transplantation.

5. Nearly 90% of people who’ve had a liver transplant are still alive one year after the surgery.

(Medical News Today) 

However, the survival rate decreases with time. According to the liver transplant statistics, almost 80% of patients are still alive three years after the surgery, over 70% are alive five years after, and just over half are alive 20 years after the liver transplant surgery.

6. Close to 15,000 people were registered on the liver transplant waiting list in 2014.

(Mayo Clinic)

Only 7,200 transplants were performed in the same year. A living-donor liver transplant would be the perfect alternative since the human liver can regenerate and grow back to its original size after surgical removal, as the facts about organ donation state.

7. Post-surgical recovery takes 2 to 3 months.

(Medical News Today) 

After transplant surgery, patients must take immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives. These drugs prevent the body from rejecting or destroying the new organ. It also may take years to know the full effect of the surgery. Naturally, there must be some lifestyle changes, like practicing a healthy diet or avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, to keep the new liver healthy.

Kidney Transplant Statistics

Organ Donation Statistics - Kidneys

8. Over 10,000 kidney transplant surgeries occur every year.

(Dartmouth-Hitchcock)

Most people are born with two kidneys, but they can usually function normally with only one. However, some medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. The only solution with last-stage kidney disease is kidney transplantation.

9.  In 2017, over 116,000 people were on the kidney transplant waiting list.

(World Kidney Day) 

As the kidney transplant waiting list statistics show, in the previous year, there were only slightly more than 40,000 kidney transplants from both living and dead donors. The large gap between the number of available organs for donation and the number of patients in need of a new kidney is steadily growing.

10. A kidney from a living donor can last from 15 to 20 years.

(Kidney)

There are direct and indirect types of living donations. The first one is the most common type, as the organ donation statistics worldwide report. In this case, the donor names a specific person who will receive the kidney. The second one is when the donor does not name a specific person, and the kidney goes to the best match.

11. Kidney donors can range from newborns to seniors.

(Kidney) 

The National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), the US’s national computer registry, matches waiting recipients to available donor organs. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) operates this registry from Richmond, Virginia.

12. The kidney transplant facts report that 4,761 people died in 2014 waiting for a new kidney.

(Kidney) 

In addition to this, 3,668 became too ill to even receive a new kidney. A patient must wait for approximately 3.6 years for their first kidney transplant. Of course, this wait time varies based on multiple factors, such as the patient’s health, the availability of the organ they need, and compatibility.

13. 95% of people who’ve had a kidney transplant are still alive a year after the surgery.

(Dartmouth-Hitchcock) 

These kidney donation facts also show that compared to this, 90% of people stay alive after the first year of dialysis. The survival rate of the kidney itself varies from 75% to 85% one year after the surgery, if it comes from a deceased donor who is not related to the recipient, and it can reach as high as 90% if the organ is donated by a living person.

14. People who get a kidney transplant before dialysis live up to 15 years longer than those who are treated via dialysis, the organ donation statistics from 2018 report.

(BIDMC) 

People who get a kidney transplant usually live longer than those who stay on dialysis. Of course, a kidney transplant will make the biggest difference for younger adults. However, even adults as old as 75 will live an average of four more years if they receive a transplant. For comparison, the life expectancy of people who stay on dialysis is five years on average. In addition to this, patients who are on dialysis for two years are three times more likely to lose their kidney transplant.

Heart Transplant Statistics

Organ Donation Statistics - Heart

15. Every year, over 5,000 heart transplants take place globally.

(UpToDate) 

This procedure has become the preferred treatment for many heart failure patients. People turn to heart transplantation because the survival rates have improved over the last few years, as have the immunosuppressants responsible for fighting off infections after the surgery.

16. It’s estimated that more than 50,000 people need a heart transplant.

(UpToDate) 

According to the organ donation statistics from 2017, the number of heart transplant candidates is on the constant rise, while the number of donors has reached a plateau. This shortage in available organs for transplantation creates a great problem for health care providers, who must evaluate and decide who will receive a heart transplant.

17. The life expectancy for adult heart transplant recipients is 11 years, on average.

(UpToDate) 

There were over 100,000 heart transplant surgeries from 1982 to 2015. Their results, compared against the infant heart transplant statistics, show that the life expectancy rates for pediatric heart transplant patients are somewhat higher, at 16 years, on average.

18. There are more than 3,000 people in the US on the heart transplant waiting list at any given moment.

(Mayo Clinic, Healthline) 

Since there aren’t enough heart transplants, many people die waiting for a new heart. Patients who are on the waiting list are closely monitored by their doctors. If there’s a serious medical condition, like a severe infection or stroke, heart transplant waiting list statistics and data show that this temporarily makes the patient unable to receive a transplant until they recover. Once they recover, they’re put back on the waiting list.

19. Heart transplant surgery needs to occur within 4 hours of the organ’s removal.

(Mayo Clinic)

When a donor’s heart becomes available, it’s first offered to the closest transplant center. There is a limited time in which the donor organ is usable, and according to the heart transplant facts, that’s four hours. That’s why doctors and medical staff need to be able to contact the potential recipient 24/7, and the patient must be prepared at all times to reach the hospital within 3 hours’ time.

20. In the United States, the average survival rate within a year after heart transplant surgery is over 80%.

(AHA Journals) 

However, heart transplantation is not a cure, it’s just treatment for a heart condition. According to the transplant facts, this means that after the surgery, the patient will have to use various medications, including immunosuppressants, medications to treat cholesterol and prevent infection, and sometimes medications for high blood pressure and other complications.

21. In the US, the average survival rate 5 years after heart transplant surgery is 72.5%.

(Mayo Clinic, NCBI) 

Despite all the medications and regular check-ups after the surgery, people with a heart transplant can have a quality life. They can go back to work, exercise, and resume their hobbies.

Lung Transplant Statistics

Organ Donation Statistics - Lungs

22. In the last 3 decades, there have been over 36,000 lung transplant surgeries in the United States alone.

(Healthline)

This kind of surgery is considered a last chance for treating lung failure. Some of the health issues that can damage one’s lungs such that a transplant is needed include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lungs), pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs), and sarcoidosis.

23. According to the lung transplant waiting list statistics, the average waiting time for a transplant is more than 1 year.

(USCF) 

As with many other donor organs, the number of people who need a lung transplant is much higher than the number of available donated lungs. Every patient must visit their doctor every 2–3 months for a check-up while waiting for the organ. In some cases, patients must stay in the hospital so their health can be monitored and maintained until there’s a donor match.

24. As the lung transplant rejection statistics show, under 20% of people who have a lung transplant don’t survive the first year after surgery.

(WebMD) 

Some complications after lung transplantation are likely to happen. When it occurs, rejection of the donated lungs can be slowed, it can’t be stopped. Because of this, long-term survival after a lung transplant isn’t as promising as it is with other organ transplants. However, three years after the surgery, between 55% and 70% of those who received lung transplants will still be alive, according to the latest organ donation facts. The most important factor influencing lung transplant survival is the age of the patient.

25. A typical single-lung transplant surgery can last from 4 to 8 hours.

(Healthline) 

Additionally, double-lung transplantation may last for up to 12 hours. After the surgery, the patient will have to stay in the hospital for a few weeks, until their doctors are sure that the recovery is going well. Regular check-ups for at least three months and various medications for the rest of the patient’s life are a must according to the lung transplant facts.

26. There have been over 50,000 lung transplants in the world.

(NCBI) 

This procedure has become standard care for people with end-stage chronic respiratory illnesses. Lung transplants can vastly improve both pulmonary function and a patient’s quality of life. Although patient survival rates aren’t as good as they are with other organ transplants, this is still the best chance for people with end-stage respiratory illnesses.

Bone Marrow Transplant Statistics

Organ Donation Statistics - Bone Marrow

27. Every year, close to 18,000 people are in need of a bone marrow transplant.

(HRSA) 

These people suffer from leukemia, lymphoma, various types of cancers, immune disorders and blood diseases, or other life-threatening illnesses that were once considered incurable but can now be treated by a bone marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant.

28. Every year, more than 3,000 people die because they can’t find a bone marrow donor.

(IJ) 

As some of the latest bone marrow donation facts show, only 2% of the population is on the national registry for bone marrow donation. And a great number of people who are on the national bone marrow registry can’t be located or won’t donate their bone marrow when asked.

29. Over 70% of people who need a bone marrow transplant can’t find a matching donor in their family.

(HRSA) 

These people depend on the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program registry, also known as the Be The Match Registry. Still, stats on organ donation report that it’s very hard to find a match since ethnic and racial heritage play a major role in tissue transplantation. Tissue types are inherited, and because of this, patients are most likely to match someone of their own race or ethnicity.

30. Approximately 7,500 Americans are looking for a bone marrow donor at any given moment.

(IJ) 

Additionally, research shows that over 130,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a serious blood disease this year, as the transplant statistics report. Blood cancer will affect over 40,000 adults and more than 3,000 children. Unfortunately, the shortage of donors will probably lead to the deaths of half of the adults and more than 700 children.

31. There have been over 35,000 bone marrow donations without a single donor death.

(IJ) 

Bone marrow donation is safe. Only 30% of bone marrow donation procedures use the method of inserting a needle into a donor’s hip. The rest of them, 70%, use peripheral blood stem cell apheresis.

Eye Donation Facts

Organ Donation Statistics - Eye

32. There are 35 million blind people in the world, of whom most could be cured with an eye donation.

(MOHAN) 

Corneal transplantation can restore the vision when a visual impairment caused by a corneal disease becomes too severe. According to some research, this procedure is considered the world’s most frequent type of transplantation.

33. Since the procedure was first introduced, there have been nearly 2 million successful tissue donations and transplants.

(Restore Sight) 

Eye banks also report that the number of cornea donors is steadily growing every year. Organ donation statistics worldwide from 2018 also show that there were close to 70,000 cornea donors in that year in the US alone. Additionally, there were over 85,000 corneal transplants.

34. In 2018, there were over 130,000 whole eyes and corneas donated.

(Restore Sight)

Although the number of tissue recoveries in 2018 decreased compared to 2017, the transplant rate increased from 68.3% to 69.4%. The total estimated lifetime value of cornea transplants that were done in 2018 was $6 billion.

Egg Donation Facts

Organ Donation Statistics - Eggs

35. In the US each year, approximately 16,000 of all IVF cycles use donor eggs.

(Parents) 

IVF, or in vitro fertilization, is very common nowadays. Contrary to IVF, egg donation still represents a taboo. Despite this, 12% of all IVF cycles involve donated eggs. Additionally, this method gives better results than any other fertility treatment.

36. There’s an 80% chance that after the egg is fertilized, the embryos will develop correctly.

(EDF) 

These organ donation facts also show that there’s up to an 85% chance that the embryos transplanted into the uterus will implant properly. In addition to this, there’s also up to an 80% chance that the patient will be pregnant within a week after transplantation.

37. Egg donors can be compensated $10,000–$12,000.

(Growing Generations) 

Egg donors aren’t selling their eggs, they are compensated for the suffering they endure during the egg donation process. As the organ donation statistics from 2019 state, the compensation varies based on a number of factors. However, it can exceed $12,000 if the donor has unique qualities that are difficult to find.

38. Healthy baby births via egg donations are on average 10%–20% less common when compared to clinical pregnancies.

(EDF) 

The quality of the donated eggs, the experience of the IVF laboratory, the procedure itself, and the medical conditions of the future parents are only some of the factors that influence the success rate of IVF treatment with donor eggs.

Organ Donation Facts And Myths

Organ Donation Statistics - Myths

39. Myth: If you’re a registered donor and have a medical emergency, doctors won’t try their best to save your life.

(Penn Medicine)

Saving patients’ lives is every doctor’s priority. Organ donation is only considered when the patient is dead or when their death is inevitable and nothing more can be done to save their life (i.e., brain death).

40. Myth: When the time comes, it’s best for your family to decide whether your organs will be donated.

(Donate Life) 

Most organ transplant waiting list statistics report that over 70% of families who knew about their loved one’s wish to donate agreed with their decision. The main reason families reject donation is because they don’t know the wishes of their family member.

41. Myth: If you have a medical condition, you can’t donate organs.

(Mayo Clinic) 

There’s only a tiny fraction of health issues that automatically disqualify a person from donating, as some of the latest organ transplant rejection statistics have stated. Only medical professionals at the time of a donor’s death can determine if their organs are suitable for transplantation, or not.

42. Myth: You can’t be an organ or tissue donor if you’re too old.

(Donate Life)

No person is too old to be a donor. People in their 70s and 80s have saved numerous lives through tissue and organ donation. It’s true that the age and medical state of the donor are considered, but the organ and tissue donation facts state that age is definitely not a barrier for donation.

43. Myth: Tissue and organ donation disfigures the body, making an open casket funeral impossible.

(Organ Donor)

Organ and tissue donation surgery is performed by medical professionals and any incisions made during the procedure are closed and covered, as in any other operation, and aren’t visible beneath the person’s clothes. The bodies of donors are always treated with respect and dignity.

FAQs

1. How many people are organ donors?

(Donate Life America) 

Right now, there are over 4.5 million donors registered with the National Donate Life Registry. Although it may seem high, the number of donors and available organs for transplant is much lower than the number of organ transplants that are needed.

2. How many people die a day waiting for an organ donation?

(HRSA) 

On average, 20 people die every day waiting for a life-saving organ donation. Additionally, every 10 minutes, a new candidate is added to the organ transplant list. Unfortunately, organ shortage is becoming a greater and greater issue, and the need for available transplant organs is rising.

3. What is the best way to become an organ donor?

(HRSA) 

When it comes to how to become an organ donor, know that any person who is older than 18 can register to donate their organs and tissue. Even people younger than 18 can register, but a parent or legal guardian makes the final donation decision. When registering, most states will allow the donors to select what organs and tissues they want to donate, and the status can be updated at any time.

4. What percentage of the population is an organ donor?

(Penn Medicine, HRSA) 

Almost everyone in the US supports organ donation, 95% of the population, but only half of them are registered as donors. Thousands of people are in need of a new organ, and only 3 in 1,000 deaths occur in a way that allows organ donation.

5. How many lives are saved each year from organ donation?

(Organ Donor) 

There were nearly 40,000 organ donations in 2018, which is by far a record. This means that every day 80 people get an organ needed to save their life. There are also over one million tissue transplants every year.

6. How many people are affected by organ donation?

(Penn Medicine)

A single deceased organ donor saves as many as 8 lives. Two kidneys could save two different people from dialysis, a liver can be split to save another two people, and two lungs could save another two. Additionally, the pancreas and heart can also be donated, and tissues like bone, tendons, cartilage, connective tissue, skin, corneas, sclera, heart valves, and vessels could help 75 people.

7. Why is organ donation important?

(Better Health)

Organ and tissue donations literally save or change people’s lives. Children and the elderly alike need donated organs and tissue. It’s anyone who is sick or dying. Some actually die waiting for a new organ. The organ donation statistics from 2020 might show trials in artificial kidneys, but until that day comes, doing as much as you can is key. Some spend days, weeks, months, or even years in hospitals, or they make several trips a week to the hospital for treatment.

Bottom Line

Even with so much media exposure, it’s very hard to find new organ donors. The public needs to be educated on this topic, and we hope that these organ donation statistics will help in that. The greatest part of the problem is the gap between supply and demand. However, various myths and stigmas need to be dispelled, and people need to overcome the fear of donating the organs that can save someone’s life.

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