The benefits of transplantation are hard to dispute. For instance, when compared to long term dialysis, kidney transplantation offers a longer life expectancy, improved quality of life and very significant financial savings. The availability of suitable donor organs is the principal determinant of the number of transplants that can be carried out in the UK each year. Whilst future solutions for end-stage organ failure may reside in stem cell technology, genetic engineering and xenotransplantation current programmes rely on the use of human organs donated in life or after death.

The demand for donor organs in the UK has risen relentlessly over the first decade of the this century, this being a consequence of

  • an increasing incidence of end stage organ failure in an ageing population with higher rates of hypertension and diabetes mellitus and hypertension
  • improvements in retrieval, transplantation and immunotherapy techniques that deliver improved post-transplantation outcomes
  • more transparent and equitable organ allocation algorithms.
However, whilst demand has risen the overall number of available deceased donor organs continues to lag well behind (Figure 1). Furthermore, whilst the increase in the number of organ donors over recent years has resulted in a welcome increase in the number of kidney transplants carried out, there remains a desperate shortage of thoracic organs. For further information see Annual Activity Report.

Although the number of deceased organ donors in the UK is somewhat lower than in many other developed countries (see Deceased Donation), this has in part been compensated for by relatively high numbers of living donors, to the extent that for several years over the last decade there have been more living donors in the UK than deceased donors (Figure 2). For more information go to Living Donation.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Next section: Deceased Donation

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