Fewer Organ Donors But Higher Transplant Success Rates

Gap widening between available organs and patients awaiting donation

FRIDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- The number of organs available for donation from both living and deceased donors is decreasing, but survival rates for transplant surgery have increased, according to a study in the April issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.

Andrew S. Klein, M.D., of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed organ transplant data from 1999 to 2008 and found that living organ donations increased from 1999 to 2004 but have since progressively decreased. Meanwhile, the number of deceased donors went up every year from 1999 to 2007 (notably from 2003 to 2006), at which point they plateaued and started to decline slightly in 2008. However, improved survival rates have encouraged more patients with organ failure and their doctors to choose transplantation, resulting in a widening gap between organs available and patients awaiting donation.

Factors contributing to the shortage of organs include disincentives for living organ donation, lack of public engagement in transplant policies, inaccurate perception of the donation process for deceased donors, and inadequate procurement testing, which leads to potentially transplantable organs being discarded, the researchers write. However, increases in survival rates have encouraged more doctors and patients to consider transplantation.

"Ironically, the single largest factor in today's donor organ shortfall is that solid organ transplants have become so successful," Klein said in a statement. "Improved survival rates and the expectation that organ replacement will enhance quality of life have encouraged more doctors and their patients with organ failure to opt for transplantation."

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