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Organ Transplantation


Since 1988, there have been 507,043 organ transplants in the United States. More than 28,000 of those transplants occurred in 2010, when 14,503 people donated organs. Overall distribution of organ donation by sex was nearly even (7,173 male and 7,330 female organ donors), though females made up the majority of living donors (60.0 percent), while most deceased donors were male (58.9 percent).

The need for donated organs greatly exceeds availability, so waiting lists for organs are growing. As of March 4, 2011, there were 110,506 people awaiting an organ transplant, and females accounted for 40.8 percent of those patients. Of the 45,125 females waiting for an organ transplant, White females accounted for 42.9 percent, followed by Black (31.5 percent), Hispanic (17.2 percent), and Asian females (6.6 percent). Compared to population estimates for 2009, these data highlight racial and ethnic disparities in the need for organs: while Black women comprise almost one-third of those on the waiting list, they represented only 12.5 percent of the female population. Conversely, Hispanic women comprise about 17 percent of females waiting for organs, while representing over one-fifth of the female population.

In 2010, there were 10,784 organ transplants performed for females in the United States. The most commonly transplanted organ was the kidney (6,613 transplanted), followed by the liver (2,229). Different patterns were seen in access to liver and kidney transplantation by race and ethnicity. Comparing the racial and ethnic distribution of persons receiving a transplant to the distribution of those wait-listed for an organ transplant is one way to describe these differences. Among kidney transplant recipients, Whites were transplanted at a rate above their representation on the waiting list with a ratio of 1.22, comparing the proportion of transplant recipients who were White to the proportion of wait-list candidates who were white. In other words, the proportion of Whites who received a kidney transplant was greater than the proportion of Whites on the waiting list. In contrast, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians received kidney transplants at rates below their representation on the waiting list (0.91, 0.85, and 0.72, respectively). Among liver transplant recipients, African-Americans and Asians were transplanted at rates above their representation on the waiting list.



Females on Organ Waiting Lists,* by Race/Ethnicity, 2011

Percent of Females:

  • White: 42.9
  • Black: 31.5
  • Hispanic: 17.2
  • Asian: 6.6
  • American Indian/Alaska Native: 1.1
  • Pacific Islander: 0.5
  • More than one race: 0.5

*As of March 4, 2011. Percentages may not add to 100 because respondents could select more than one race and ethnicity.

Source: Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. National Data, Advanced Reports. Accessed 03/10/11.

Ratio of Transplant Recipients* to Candidates on Waiting List for Liver and Kidney Transplants, by Race/Ethnicity, 2008
Race/Ethnicity Ratio
Kidney Liver
*Transplants from deceased donors only.
Source: 2009 Annual Report of the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network and the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients: Transplant Data 1999-2008. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Healthcare Systems Bureau, Division of Transplantation, Rockville, MD. Accessed 03/10/11.
White 1.22 .98
African-American .91 1.51
Hispanic/Latino .85 .84
Asian .72 1.11

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