U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Organ Transplantation

Since 1988, there have been more than 475,000 organ transplants in the United States. More than 28,000 of those transplants occurred in 2009, when nearly 15,000 people donated organs. Overall distribution of organ donation by sex was nearly even (7,347 male and 7,284 female organ donors), though females were more likely than males to be living donors (60.4 percent of living donors were female), while males accounted for a greater proportion of deceased donors (58.9 percent; data not shown).

The need for donated organs greatly exceeds their availability, so waiting lists for organs are growing. As of July 23, 2010, there were 107,960 people awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. Females accounted for 41.0 percent of those patients but made up only 37.9 percent of those who received a transplant in 2009 (data not shown). Among females waiting for an organ transplant, 43.4 percent were White, 31.4 percent were Black, and 17.0 percent were Hispanic.

In 2009, there were 10,774 organ transplants performed for females in the United States. The most commonly transplanted organ was the kidney (6,678 transplanted), followed by the liver (2,158). The kidney and liver were also the most donated organs, with 6,851 females donating kidneys and 2,865 donating liver in 2009.

In 2003, the donation community began to work together through the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative and other grassroots efforts to increase donations. From 2003 to 2009, organ donation by deceased donors increased by an unprecedented 24 percent. One of the challenges of organ donation is obtaining consent from the donor’s family or legal surrogate. Consent rates may vary due to religious beliefs, communication issues between health care providers and grieving families, perceived inequities in the allocation system, lack of knowledge of the wishes of the deceased, and limited of understanding of donation and funeral arrangements.1

1 2007 OPTN/SRTR Annual Report: Transplanta Data 1997-2006. HHS/HRSA/SPB/DOT; UNOS; URREA.

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