In what turned out to be a record-setting year, 39,717 organs — hearts and kidneys, for instance — were transplanted in 2019 in U.S. residents. It was the seventh consecutive year that the number of organ transplants has increased, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the nonprofit organization that has the federal contract to coordinate the country’s organ procurement and transplant effort. Kidney transplants were the most common, with 23,401 people getting a new kidney last year, followed by transplants of the liver (8,896), heart (3,551) and lung (2,714). Most donated organs came from 11,780 people who had died, a 38 percent increase in deceased donors since 2014. Transplants from living donors — 7,397 — also were at an all-time high. Still, not everyone who needs a new organ gets one. UNOS reports that, on average, 17 people die each day because the organ they need is unavailable. More than 112,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. For a transplant to become reality, organ donors and transplant recipients must be a close match, based on such factors as compatible blood and tissue types. Depending on the specific organ, a similar body size might be needed. The location of the donor and recipient, the severity or medical urgency of the potential recipient, and the length of time spent on the waiting list also may be considered. People who want to be an organ donor can have that noted on their driver’s license, but UNOS recommends that people also sign up on their state’s registry.
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