United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Iowa City VA Health Care System

Waiting List for Deceased Donor Transplants

What is the waiting list?

When someone is on the waiting list, it means that person has been registered with the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) for a deceased donor transplant. The OPTN maintains the computer network that links all 59 of the regional Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) and all 255 transplant centers in the U.S. Each OPO is responsible for identifying potential organs for transplant and for notifying the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) when organs become available. UNOS is a private, nonprofit organization that administers OPTN under a contract with the Federal Government.

What happens when a kidney becomes available?

When a deceased donor kidney becomes available for transplantation, the local OPO notifies UNOS. UNOS then makes a computer-generated list of suitable recipients. Each time an organ becomes available, UNOS prints a new list. UNOS then notifies the transplant center that a kidney is available for a recipient who is listed at that center.

How long will I have to wait for a deceased donor kidney?

The length of time all potential deceased donor kidney recipients must wait depends on many factors, including how well the donor matches the recipient, length of time spent on the waiting list, and other medical criteria. Some people wait only a few months for a good match, while others may wait as many as three years or longer. However, the potential recipient's race, income, gender, or celebrity status is never a factor in deciding who receives a kidney.

How many people are on the waiting list?

As of February 20, 2004, a total of 59,665 persons were on the UNOS kidney transplant waiting list. In the year 2001, UNOS reported 14,152 people received a kidney transplant in the U.S. Of those transplants, 5,949 (or about 42%) were from living donors. The number of people on the waiting list increases every year. However, the number of deceased donor kidneys has remained about the same. The result is a shortage of kidneys and a longer time on the waiting list.

For current information about the waiting list, visit the UNOS website.

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