Improved procurement could more than double organ availability

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Yet study finds that even with greater efficiency, supply of organs will not meet transplant demand

Although millions of people across the country are registered organ donors, only 2 percent of them annually suffer brain death and meet the other medical requirements for being a cadaveric donor. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that the number of actual donors may be further limited by organ procurement organizations that do not utilize the most efficient practices. Though the need for transplantable organs far outweighs the supply, the number of organs donated could actually be more than doubled — saving thousands of lives every year — if the procurement process were improved. These findings by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement appeared in the summer issue of Health Care Financing Review. “We needed to know if we have a supply of potential donors who can meet the demand for organs,” said Edward Guadagnoli, first author on the study and an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. “We didn’t know until we used a statistical model to estimate that number.” The researchers determined that the number is about 17,000 potential donors each year.