June 30, 2023

How Organ Donation and Transplantation is Growing

Written by: Kelley McClellan
In 2021, the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) set a goal to advance and enhance the rigorous work of organ procurement organizations (OPOs). This idea took shape as AOPO’s 50k campaign. The main purpose was to set the goal for OPOs to achieve 50,000 organ transplants annually by 2026. Our hope in supporting AOPO’s initiative is that it creates a more equitable system, drives innovation, increases collaboration and maximizes organ utilization. 

This plan also complements and exceeds the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) goal announced in 2020 to reach 41,000 organ transplants annually by the end of 2026. We were proud to learn that AOPO and its members (including our hardworking clinical team) reached over 42,000 annual organs transplanted in 2022 surpassing the goal CMS set for 2026. Current predictions illustrate that OPOs are on the path to recover and successfully transplant 50,000 organs (annually) in 2026. 

While we observe organ donation and transplantation increasing, one of the largest hurdles summarized in the most recent report published by AOPO is the non-utilization of available organs. In 2022, the number of recovered organs left unused continued to rise. For example, 26% of kidneys that were recovered by OPOs in 2022 weren’t placed with patients who are desperately waiting. Unfortunately, thousands of organs save lives each year because of this problem. This was also highlighted in the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s (NASEM) 2022 holistic review of the organ donation and transplantation system requested by the United States Congress and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

On September 9, 2022, another milestone was reached by OPOs- the 1 millionth organ transplant was completed. This historical moment showcased our country’s leadership in organ donation and transplantation. It was more than any other country in the world has achieved!  

A few impressive and quick facts to keep in mind: 
  • Half of all organ transplants performed in the United States have taken place in the past 15 years. 
  • In the past 11 years, new annual records have been set yearly when it comes to heroic organ donors. 
  • More than 400,000 Americans are alive today with a functioning organ transplant. 
This milestone establishes a powerful trend that showcases the continuous evolution of scientific breakthroughs like increasing focus on non-traditional heroic donors, more equitable organ allocation policies and new organ preservation techniques. 

All of this means that more lives will be saved. In honor of Men’s Health Month, we would like to introduce you to a Nevadan and our Advocate for Life, Bret. He received the ultimate gift through organ donation. He shared, “I woke up on 1/31/2017 in lower back pain. For the first time, I went to Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center's Emergency Room. They ran a few tests and shared that I was passing a kidney stone. I received a shot and was sent home. Around 10:30 that evening, I started to experience nausea and lower back pain again. I went back to the hospital and suddenly passed out. When I woke up, they were discussing my electrocardiogram (ECG) which showed I was having a heart attack. They administered Morphine and Nitroglycerin to make me comfortable. My wife came after work around 2:00 A.M. and the next conscious memory I have was waking up on the operating table. After being ventilated, I ended up at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center and they informed me I experienced a widow maker heart attack. After having a pump installed in my heart, I also had to have a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG). The local medical team did all they could to fix and heal my heart. Over the next two years, I received an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator with a Pacemaker (ICD). After this very complicated journey, I learned there was nothing else my local medical team could do for me. I ended up visiting UCLA Health where I met with the transplant team, and they shared that I would need a new heart to survive. After being listed, I was sent home to wait. On 12/18/2020, the call I had been desperately waiting for came. I rushed to Los Angeles and my transplant team told me they found my perfect match. Due to pandemic restrictions, my wife and caregivers couldn’t come into the hospital with me. The surgery was a success, and I was in the hospital for three weeks. When they let me out of the hospital with my 25 medications, my wife and I stayed in the area for four months. I had a new heart and renewed life through this second chance. I don’t know anything about the heroic donor who gave me the ultimate gift, but I’m forever grateful. While recovering, I started painting for the first time in my life and to me, it felt like a simple miracle which I feel about the smallest things every day.”

Brett 1

Inspired by the work that is being done to further organ donation and transplantation? Register to be a hero here