On this day, the United States achieved its 1 millionth organ transplant. This historic accomplishment was confirmed by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the nonprofit powering the U.S. organ donation and transplantation system under contract with the federal government and in partnership with the nationwide organ donation and transplant community.
Of the million U.S. transplants performed, more than half have occurred since 2007, a sustained trend of system-wide increases made possible by the ongoing expansion of more equitable organ allocation policies, an increasing focus on non-traditional donors, collaborative efforts to increase donation, the continuous evolution of organ preservation techniques and other scientific breakthroughs.
“The organ donation and transplant community has made lifesaving history together,” said Jerry McCauley, M.D., president of the UNOS Board of Directors. "We invite donor families, transplant recipients, candidates, living organ donors, physicians, professionals, volunteers, advocates and others touched by transplant to honor and celebrate the gifts that made this important milestone possible.”
The first successful transplant took place in Boston in 1954. Over 41,000 transplants were performed nationwide in 2021, the most ever in a single year, more than double the number from 25 years ago and the 9th consecutive record-setting year for deceased donor transplants.
"Achieving 1 million transplants is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the donation and transplant community," said UNOS CEO Brian Shepard. "While one million is just a number, each one of those million is a person restored to their families and communities. While we celebrate, honor and reflect, the work continues to save even more lives, increase the effectiveness of our high-performing national system, and reach the next million."
Continual system-wide expansion and improvement are also marked by greater equity, especially in kidney allocation, which accounts for more than 60 percent of total transplants. In 2021, 58 percent of all kidney recipients were patients of color – a 25 percent increase from 1988 driven by multiple policy and performance improvements, including the elimination of race-based calculations used to measure kidney function.
UNOS is inviting the transplant community – comprised of thousands of organ donation and transplant professionals, patients, donors, family members and volunteers – to collaborate in pursuit of the next million transplants. Living It Forward is a national initiative led by UNOS in partnership with the nation’s organ donation and transplant community to further accelerate the pace of lifesaving transplantation while commemorating so many lives saved, recognizing those still waiting, and remembering those we have lost.
Visit LivingItForward.org to read stories about some of the people behind the 1 million and see how the gift of life has allowed them to begin living it forward.
UNOS encourages everyone to become part of our community by registering as an organ donor. One person can save up to eight lives through organ donation and change the lives of as many as 75 through tissue donation. Because only two percent of people die in a way that makes organ donation possible, the need is great. More than 100,000 people remain on the transplant waitlist. Please register today at RegisterMe.org/LivingItForward.
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the mission-driven non-profit serving as the nation’s transplant system under contract with the federal government. We lead the network of transplant hospitals, organ procurement organizations, and thousands of volunteers who are dedicated to honoring the gifts of life entrusted to us and to making lifesaving transplants possible for patients in need. Working together, we leverage data and advances in science and technology to continuously strengthen the system, increase the number of organs recovered and the number of transplants performed, and ensure patients across the nation have equitable access to transplant.