Global Health

This is how many people are waiting for an organ transplant in the US

doctors performing a surgical operation

“Doors are starting to open that will lead, I believe, to major changes in how we treat organ failure" - Dr. David Klassen. Image: UNSPLASH/Piron Guillaume

Martin Armstrong
Data Journalist, Statista
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This article is part of: Centre for Health and Healthcare
  • Almost 120,000 people were waiting for an organ transplant in September 2021 in the U.S.
  • The below infographic explores which types of organs are needed.
  • Potential solutions are on the horizon, but these will require large amounts of time and research before they can be widely used.

A genetically modified pig's heart has been successfully transplanted into a human for the first time. The operation, performed in Baltimore in the United States on Friday, offers a potential future solution to long transplant waiting lists. Dr. Bartley Griffith, who performed the operation, described the situation on Monday: “It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart,” adding: “It’s working and it looks normal. We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before.”

This infographic takes a look at the size of the transplant waiting list problem in the U.S. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, almost 120 thousand people were waiting for an organ in September 2021, with a kidney being the most needed (over 97 thousand) by far. A heart transplant was needed by around 3,500 people.

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While the operation is being described as a watershed moment, Dr. David Klassen, the chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing, warns that there is still a long way to go before this is a valid option for a large number of patients: “Doors are starting to open that will lead, I believe, to major changes in how we treat organ failure" but “Events like these can be dramatized in the press, and it’s important to maintain perspective. It takes a long time to mature a therapy like this.”

This chart shows the waiting lists for individuals waiting for an organ transplant, by type.
Almost 120,000 people were waiting for an organ in September 2021. Image: Statistica/organdonor.gov
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