Organ Donation by the Numbers

Monday, December 10, 2012

On a daily basis in the United States, roughly 79 organ transplants are performed and 18 individuals die due to a lack of available organs.


A reported 7,256 people died while waiting for transplants in 2011. Although 90% of Americans support organ donation, just 30% of individuals polled knew the steps to take to become an organ donor, according to Donate Life America.

Donation Disparities

In 2011, donors helped facilitate a total of 28,535 organ transplants, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Of those transplants, approximately 59.9% — 17,089 — were performed on individuals ages 50 or older, while only 2,837 of deceased donations came from the same age group. Sixty-four percent of all individuals on the national transplant waiting list were 50 or older, as were 57% of individuals receiving kidney transplants and 71% of individuals receiving liver transplants.  

According to HHS, less than one-third of the population — just more than 100 million people — are registered organ donors. Minority populations comprise more than half the transplant waiting list, although only 34% of organ transplant recipients are minorities. Forty-five percent of all waiting list patients are Caucasian.

Education Is Key

A single donor can benefit as many as 50 different people. From January 2012 to May 2012, 5,679 donors were responsible for 11,471 transplants.

In a 2005 study by The Gallup Organization, more than 20% of the polled population older than 65 mistakenly thought they were too old to be donors. Nearly 12% of this group believed they were too old to receive an organ transplant.

Common Donation Needs

The kidney is the most commonly transplanted organ, according to OPTN. As of August 2012, there were 93,068 kidney transplant candidates on the national waiting list. Untreated cases of diabetes, hypertension and other diseases can weaken the kidneys, making transplant necessary. Kidneys may be donated posthumously or come from living donors.

Other common organs with transplant waiting lists include the heart, liver, pancreas, lungs and intestines.

To view current organ transplant waiting list statistics, visit