January 28, 2015
1 min read

Solid organ transplantation saved more than 2 million life-years since 1987

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In a new retrospective analysis, solid organ transplantation saved more than 2 million life-years, including more than 400,000 among liver transplant recipients, during a 25-year period, according to new study data published in JAMA Surgery.

“The 2.3 million life-years saved to date is a stellar accomplishment,” the researchers wrote. “These life-years saved are in patients with end-organ failure, who are among the sickest patients.”

Researchers, including Abbas Rana, MD, of the department of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, analyzed data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) database and the Social Security Administration Death Master File during a 25-year period (September 1987 to December 2012) to determine survival benefits of patients who underwent solid organ transplantation. Overall, researchers reviewed records of 1.1 million patients wait-listed for transplant; 533,329 underwent transplantation and 579,506 remained on the waiting list and did not undergo transplantation.

Analysis showed that approximately 2.3 million life-years to date were saved during the 25-year period of solid organ transplant; 2.1 million were saved after adjustment. A mean of 4.3 life-years were saved per transplant recipient. Of all the types of solid organ transplants, liver transplants saved 465,296 life-years; kidney transplants saved 1.3 million; heart transplants saved 269,715; pancreas-kidney transplants saved 79,198; intestine transplants saved 4,402; pancreas transplants saved 14,903; and lung transplants saved 64,575, according to the research.

“Our analysis indicated that, as a nation, we achieved the peak volume of transplantation in 2006,” the researchers wrote. “The critical shortage of donors continues to hamper this field: only 47.9% of patients on the waiting list during the 25-year study period underwent a transplant. The need is increasing, therefore, organ donation must increase.”

Overall, posttransplant survival was superior to wait-list survival time during the time period, except those undergoing additional pediatric liver transplant, pediatric lung transplant, pediatric heart-lung transplant and pediatric intestine transplant recipients, according to the research.

“These results refute any lingering perception of transplantation as a niche field with limited practical benefit,” the researchers concluded. “Furthermore, focusing exclusively on the survival benefit does not capture the vast improvements in quality of life and the drastically lowered morbidity rates after a transplant.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.