Americans Broke Organ Donation Record in 2017

By: Bridget Clerkin January 16, 2018
U.S. organ donations broke a record in 2017 due in part to a loosening of rules regarding who may donate.
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For many, 2017 represented a difficult year for the United States, fraught with rancor and division. But the last 12 months also demonstrated that more Americans than ever have a heart.

Organ donations hit a record high last year, with more than 10,000 deceased donors passing on life-saving gifts to those in medical need, according to preliminary figures from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). It’s the first time that number has ever surpassed the 10,000 mark, the group said, with the final tally for the year coming in at 10,281.

The precedent-setting figure represents a 3.1% increase from 2016 and a whopping 27% jump in the number of deceased donors since 2007. But that wasn’t the only highlight in the world of organ donation last year.

All told, 34,768 organ transplants (from living and deceased donors) were performed in 2017, itself a new record high, according to UNOS. Living donors made about 18% of last year’s donations, with the remaining 82%—or 28,587 transplants—coming from the 10,281 deceased donors, the largest factor in the rising total for 2017.

The total number of transplants tops 2016’s figures by 3.4% and shows the fifth straight year of record-setting growth for such procedures. (Since 1988, the first year such data was officially tracked, there have been a total of 721,742 organ transplants across the United States.)

Helping boost the 2017 numbers were new, more expansive rules dictating potentially viable donors, especially for deceased organ donor transplants. The broader criteria—which now, for example, allow for contributions from those who’ve died from circulatory failure and drug intoxication—led to more patients receiving a kidney, liver, heart, or lung, by far the four most common organs needed for such procedures, according to UNOS.

“As we increase our understanding of medical criteria that contribute to successful transplantation, donation and transplantation professionals have been able to use organs from a wider set of potential donors,” said David Klassen, M.D., UNOS Chief Medical Officer. “In doing so, we continue to carefully balance the opportunity for transplantation with a commitment to maintaining patient safety.”

Still, the procedures wouldn’t have happened without those donors signing up to give the gift of life—and hope. To learn more about organ donation and registering as an organ donor in your state, visit DMV.ORG's organ donation page

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