Deceased Donations

In the United States, most kidney transplants come from deceased kidney donors. Deceased donors are most often individuals who die from accidents, heart attacks or strokes, and their next of kin consent to organ donation. 



The typical organ donor age range is from newborn to 65 years or more. People who are 65 years of age or older may be acceptable donors, but it is dependent upon a medical evaluation.

A kidney can be recovered and transported thousands of miles to a transplant center for transplantation. This is due, in part, to advances in preservation techniques. Under proper conditions, a kidney can last up to 72 hours before being transplanted.

Donor organs are matched to waiting recipients by a national registry, called the National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). This registry is operated by an organization known as the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), located in Richmond, Virginia.  More information on both OPTN and UNOS is below.
Currently there are 58 organ procurement organizations (OPOs) across the country, which provide organ procurement services to over 250 transplant centers.

All hospitals are required by law to have a "Required Referral" system in place. Under this system, the hospital must notify the local Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) of all patient deaths. If the OPO determines that organ and/or tissue donation is appropriate in a particular case, a representative will contact the deceased patient’s family to offer them the option of donating their loved one’s organs and tissues.

Donor organs and tissues are removed surgically, and the donor’s body is closed, as in any surgery. There are no outward signs of organ donation and open casket funerals are still possible.


The Waiting List

The average waiting time for a kidney is at least 3-5 years depending on blood type.  Each potential recipient has an equal chance at receiving a transplant.  Waiting time does vary among transplant centers and regions of the country.

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OPOs and UNOs

An organ procurement organization (OPO) is charged donor management and with matching organs from a patient who has died with an individual awaiting an organ transplant.

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UNOS maintains the computerized database of every patient waiting for any kind of organ transplant in the United States.

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Number of kidney transplants performed in the United States. Learn More