Organ Donation

Transplants save lives

  • Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub described transplantation as "one of the great success stories of the latter half of the 20th century".
  • Surgeons have been saving the lives of dying people through transplantation for more than 50 years.
  • The first successful transplant was of a cornea on 7 December 1905 in what is now the Czech Republic.
  • The first major organ transplant success involved the donation of a kidney between living twins in Boston, USA, on 23 December 1954.
  • The first heart transplant was performed in South Africa in 1967, by Dr Christiaan Barnard.
  • Transplants are vital operations and their success depends entirely on the generosity of donors and their families who make this life-saving gift.
  • The UK NHS Organ Donor Register was launched in October 1994 and by April 2014 included the names of over 20.2 million people who had pledged to donate their organs for transplant after their death.

Waiting and hoping

  • More than 10,000 people need an organ transplant in the UK.
  • Last year (2013-14) a record 4,655 people's lives were transformed by a transplant. One in four of all transplants are from living donors.
  • Transplants are now so successful that many more patients can be considered for treatment in this way.
  • Advances in surgical skills and better drugs mean that a year after surgery:
    • 97% of kidneys in living donor transplants
    • 93% of kidneys from people who have died
    • 93% of liver transplants
    • 81% of heart transplants
    • 82% of lung transplants

are still functioning well in adults. These figures are improving all the time.

  • The median (average) waiting time for an adult kidney transplant is 1,114 days. Children, who are prioritised in the matching sequence, wait on average 354 days.
  • Adults wait an average of 441 days for a heart* and 265 for a lung. Children wait an average of 214 days for a heart*. * based on non-urgent registrations.
  • Adults wait an average of 145 days for a liver* transplant, while children wait an average of 72 days. *based on elective registrations.
  • About 1,000 people die every year in the UK while waiting for an organ transplant or because they become too ill to survive an operation and are removed from the list.

Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014:

  • 4,655 organ transplants were carried out, thanks to the generosity of 2,466 donors.
  • 3,301 patients' lives were dramatically improved by a kidney or pancreas transplant, 188 of whom received a combined kidney/pancreas transplant.
  • 1,328 lives were saved in the UK through a heart, lung, liver or combined heart/lungs, liver/kidney or heart/kidney transplant.
  • A further 3,724 people had their sight restored through a cornea transplant.
  • Organs from 1,320 deceased donors in the UK were used to provide 3,505 transplants.
  • A record number of 821 kidney transplants from donors after circulatory death took place and accounted for one in four of all kidney transplants.
  • A record number of 153 liver transplants from donors after circulatory death took place, a 13% increase on 2012-13.
  • One in four (25%) of liver transplant recipients were aged 60 or over, while patients aged under six received over 8% of liver transplants.
  • 17% of heart transplants were given to patients under 18, while patients over 60 received 10% of all heart transplants.
  • More than one in five kidney transplants, including living donor transplants, were received by people of minority ethnic origin in the UK.
  • 1,114 living donor kidney transplants were carried out accounting for more than a third of all kidney transplants. 'Non-directed' living donor transplants (also known as altruistic donor transplants) and paired and pooled donations contributed 118 and 72 kidney transplants, respectively.
  • 21% of living kidney donations in the UK were parent to child and 20% were sibling to sibling.
Join the Organ Donor Register 0300 123 23 23