Hope for those waiting for kidneys: 2017 broke records for organ donation

Kidney transplant surgery

If you’re on the waiting list for a kidney (or any other organ), the news from UNOS that 2017 broke records for organ donation is indeed cause for celebration and hope.

UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), which manages the nation’s organ transplant system, said 2017 was the first year that more than 10,000 people became deceased donors, and nearly 34,800 organ transplants were performed. It was the fifth consecutive record-breaking year.

It’s encouraging to see the upward trend for organ donation in general and kidney donation in particular. Last year, 19,848 people living with kidney failure received a kidney transplant, with another 789 receiving a kidney and pancreas. That is the highest number of kidney transplants ever.

But even as records are broken, 13 people living with kidney failure die every day waiting for a kidney.

Today, there are almost half a million dialysis patients in the United States, and nearly 96,000 of them are on the waiting list for a kidney and 1,690 are waiting for a kidney and pancreas.

Together, we need to increase the number of kidneys available to those on the waiting list by encouraging people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and to educate people about living donation.

A promising development that could help increase the number of available kidneys for transplant is the use of kidneys from deceased donors who had the hepatitis C virus. Normally, organs from deceased people infected with hepatitis C are discarded since the recipient of the organ could also contract the virus.

But recent medical advances have created cures for hepatitis C that do not harm the kidneys. Several transplant centers have conducted trials to test transplanting kidneys from deceased donors with hepatitis C into patients with kidney failure, and then curing the virus in the recipient. NBC Nightly News covered one of the nation’s first trials, at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

We will be working hard this year to encourage more people to become organ donors and learn about living donation. We’ll be advocating for public policy that supports organ donation and transplantation.

Will you join us in this important mission? One way to get involved is by joining our nationwide Advocacy Network.

Let’s work together so that even more records can be broken in 2018!

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About the Author

LaVarne A. Burton

LaVarne A. Burton is President and CEO of the American Kidney Fund

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