The Gift of Life: Transplants Save Many, More Still Needed

Organ transplants saved millions of years of life in last 25 years

(RxWiki News) Organ transplants have been saving lives for years. And as the need for transplants grows, so does the need for donors.

A new study reviewed how organ transplants have affected patients' survival and found that transplants have saved many lives and added years to those lives. Still, more patients could benefit from more research on the subject, new practices and more donors, the authors of this study said.

"We call for deepened support of solid-organ transplant and donation — worthy endeavors with a remarkable record of achievement and a tremendous potential to do even more good for humankind in the future," wrote lead study author Abbas Rana, MD, of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and colleagues.

Michelle Segovia, of Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, told dailyRx News that "many lives have been saved thanks to those selfless individuals who registered to donate or their families who have consented to donation of their loved one.

"Unfortunately, there is still an organ shortage with more than 123,000 people in need of a life-saving transplant, 21 of whom die each day waiting," she said. "To register your decision to be a donor, please visit and discuss your decision with family members."

Dr. Rana and team reviewed records in the United Network for Organ Sharing, the US registry for people needing and receiving a solid-organ transplant. Solid-organ transplants involve organs like kidneys, hearts, livers, pancreases, intestines and lungs.

These researchers looked at the number and type of transplants done and estimated how many years of the patients' lives the transplants had saved.

Of the 1.1 million US patients on the transplant list between 1987 and 2012, more than 500,000 received a transplant. That meant about 48 percent of those who needed a transplant received one.

"The critical shortage of donors continues to hamper this field," Dr. Rana and colleagues wrote. "The need is increasing: therefore, organ donation must increase."

These researchers noted that many organ transplants not only improved the quality of patients' lives, but also extended their life spans.

Kidney transplants saved more than 1 million years of life, and liver transplants saved almost half a million years of life, Dr. Rana and team said.

These researchers estimated that transplants had saved more than 2 million years of life during the study period.

This study was published online Jan. 28 in JAMA Surgery.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 27, 2015