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Transplant network reaches milestone of 500,000 deceased donor organ transplants

Published on: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

As of May 19, 2015, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) has coordinated 500,000 organ transplants from deceased donors in the United States since its beginning in October 1987. More than 250,000 recipients of these transplants are estimated to be surviving, and more than 225,000 are estimated to have a functioning transplanted organ.

“This is a significant accomplishment in healthcare, made possible by the generosity of organ donors and their loved ones and the cooperative work of dedicated transplant professionals nationwide,” said OPTN/UNOS President Carl Berg, M.D. UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) serves as the OPTN under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Division of Transplantation.

“It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the work yet to be done,” added Dr. Berg. “More than 123,000 people await an opportunity for a life-giving transplant today. We can meet their needs with the support of everyone who commits to organ donation.”

The pace of transplants has quickened in recent years. In 2014, more than 23,700 transplants were performed nationwide involving deceased donors, more than double the number performed each year when the OPTN was established in the late 1980s. A number of factors have contributed to this trend. These include an increase in organ donors and organs recovered per donor for transplant, new forms of transplantation (such as intestinal organs and vascularized composite allografts) introduced in more recent years, improvements in OPTN systems and policies that have increased the efficiency of organ placement.

“The national system has coordinated many transplants that otherwise wouldn’t have happened,” said Dr. Berg. “The OPTN was first established when collaborative computer networking was in its infancy, and most of the matching information was communicated by phone and fax. Our technology is continually being updated to make sure that every opportunity is taken to save a life with an available organ.

“In addition, the medical criteria that drive our organ matching process are constantly being refined to reflect advances in science and medical treatment for people with end-stage organ disease. The U.S. transplant network is a worldwide model that has influenced the development of similar systems in many countries.”

About the OPTN and UNOS

The OPTN brings together medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop national organ transplantation policy. United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) serves as the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) by contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Division of Transplantation.