Organ transplants are working better and recipients are living longer than ever before, according to a report released by HHS late last week. But if you need an organ and want to enjoy those positive results, have your procedure done by a high-volume transplant center, the report suggests.
Across the board, survival rates for organ transplants are rising and reached all-time highs as measured at one and three years after surgery. Kidney transplant recipients led the way in the improvement parade with survival rates of 95% at one year and 89% at three years.
The United Network for Organ Sharing, which develops and administers national organ allocation policy, prepared the report using data from 97,000 transplants in 742 transplant programs across the country.
For the first time, the UNOS compared recent patient survival rates, gathered from May 1992 to April 1994, with historical data, gathered between January 1988 and April 1992. The report shows increases ranging from 7% to 12% for the success of the transplants at one year for patients in 1992-94 compared with 1988-92. The largest increases were recorded for heart-lung, lung and liver transplants.
However, the report shows there remains room for improvement.
The analysis identified 15 kidney, 13 liver and 15 heart programs that had lower-than-expected survival rates in both the current report and a previous edition compiled in 1994. In response, the UNOS will review procedures and case mixes at those centers, a spokeswoman said.
The UNOS said most of the programs with lower survival rates were at lower volume transplant centers. Meanwhile, the data show that most transplants are performed by a minority of programs. For instance, three-quarters of liver transplants were performed by 27% of the 103 liver programs. Likewise, half of both kidney and heart transplants were performed by 20% of the centers in both categories.
A complete copy of the report, including center-specific data, is available on the World Wide Web at www.unos.org.
Finally, HHS underscored that the biggest hurdle for successful transplantation remains a shortage of donated organs. The current waiting list exceeds 55,000, and the gap between needed and available organs is growing.