Surgeons in the United States transplanted a record number of organs, including kidneys, in 2016, according to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

A total of 33,595 organ transplants took place in the United States in 2016, an increase of 8.4% from the 30,969 transplants in 2015. The number of kidney transplants rose from 17,878 in 2015 to 19,061 in 2016, a 6.6% increase. During that same period, the number of kidney transplants involving deceased donors increased from 12,250 to 13,431, a 9.6% increase. The number of living-donor kidney transplants remained almost the same (5,628 in 2015 and 5,630 in 2016).

David Klassen, MD, chief medical officer for UNOS, told Renal & Urology News that multiple factors could explain the increase in the number of transplants in 2016. These factors include the narcotics overdose epidemic, which probably accounted for about a third of the increase from 2015 to 2016. Another reason for the upward trend, he said, is increased use of organs harvested from patients following cardiac death and not just from those who suffer brain death (the traditional source of deceased-donor organs). Organs donated after cardiac death account for about 20% of organ donations, Dr Klassen said.

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In addition, organ procurement organizations “are really doing an excellent job at identifying donors, and they are broadening the population of donors that they are willing to consider for donation. They are willing to consider organs that in the past they had not accepted.”

Dr Klassen also credits efforts by medical organizations to encourage people to donate organs.

As for why the number of living-donor kidney transplants has not increased, Dr Klassen said financial barriers (such as lost income) as well as logistical issues are contributing factors.

Despite a rising trend in organ donations, nearly 120,000 people are on a transplant waiting list at any time, he noted.

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