Organ transplants from deceased donors, totaling 33,309 in 2020, also set another annual record for the eighth consecutive year. This occurred despite significant effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, where deceased-donor transplantation briefly fell by approximately 50 percent in early April before returning to a more consistent baseline in late May.

“Over the past year, the organ donation and transplantation system has been impacted in unprecedented and unimaginable ways,” said David Mulligan, M.D., President of the UNOS Board of Directors. “To again set a record for deceased donor transplants shows the amazing resilience of our organ procurement organizations and transplant hospitals. We continue to work together to improve a system that is committed every day to ensure transplants for all those in need. Most importantly, we are all indebted to our donors and donor families for their dedication to save lives.”

While the pandemic disproportionally affected healthcare resources in certain parts of the country, deceased donation continued to increase in many areas. In 2020, 38 of the 58 organ procurement organizations nationwide experienced an increase in donation over their 2019 total.

The number of living donor transplants was affected more significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many transplant programs temporarily deferred living donor transplantation in areas particularly affected by the virus due to concerns of unnecessarily exposing potential living donors and living donor recipients to COVID-19. A total of 5,725 living donor transplants were performed in 2020, a decrease of 22.6% over the record of 7,397 set in 2019. Living donor transplants since June of 2020 have occurred at rates more similar to pre-pandemic activity.

As a result of the decline in living donor transplantation, an overall total of 39,034 transplants were performed in the United States from both living and deceased donors. This represents the second-highest annual total of overall transplants and is a slight decrease from the record of 39,719 set in 2019.

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a non-profit, charitable organization that serves as the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) under contract with the federal government. The OPTN helps create and define organ allocation and distribution policies that make the best use of donated organs. This process involves continuously evaluating new advances and discoveries so policies can be adapted to best serve patients waiting for transplants. All transplant programs and organ procurement organizations throughout the country are OPTN members and are obligated to follow the policies the OPTN creates for allocating organs.

SOURCE United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)

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