One in four organ donors in the European Union came from Spain in 2022. Spain also performed one in five transplants from the European region last year. Spain maintains the first position in the world in organ donation from deceased people and, in transplant activity, only the United States surpasses the country. This is clear from the latest report of the World Observatory of Donation and Transplantation, which has been managed by the National Transplant Organisation as a collaborating centre of the World Health Organisation for 17 years and whose data are published annually in the Transplant Newsletter of the Council of Europe.
The Minister of Health, José Miñones, has valued Spain’s leadership in organ donations and transplants. In this sense, he has expressed his deep gratitude to “the work of the professionals who participate in each of the phases of the process, as well as the coordination of the National Transplant Organisation and the autonomous communities.” Along the same lines, he has applauded “the solidarity of Spanish society and the greatness of the families who every day say yes to the donation that allows many lives to be saved or improved.” “They are the protagonists of the global success of the Spanish model of donation and transplantation,” he added.
According to the World Observatory, in 2022, 157,540 organ transplants were performed in the 91 countries that have provided their data as of August 23, 2023. Of them, 102,090 were kidney transplants (39% from living donors), 37,482 were liver transplants (24% % living donor), 8,988 heart, 6,784 lung, 2,026 pancreas and 170 intestine. These transplants were possible thanks to 41,793 deceased donors, to which are added 48,676 living donors (39,601 kidney, 9,061 liver and 14 lung).
Global organ transplant activity grew 9% over the previous year, reflecting the significant effort made by many countries to bring these programs back on track after the impact of COVID-19. Specifically, the increase in kidney transplants (10%) stands out, particularly kidney transplants from living donors (13%), followed by liver (8%), heart (7%) and lung (5%) transplants.
The expansion of non-heart beating donation in the world
In 2022, the number of deceased donors increased by 10%. The number of donors in asystole or cardiac arrest increased from 8,545 in 2021 to 9,545 in 2022, which represents an increase of 12%, and confirms its relevance as a way to expand organ donation. However, asystole donation is only carried out in 23 countries in the world. Among them, with 913 non-asystole donors and a rate of 19.6 non-asystole donors per million population, Spain registered the highest activity and contributed half of the non-asystole donors in the entire EU and 10% of the world. Our country is the only one that performs all types of transplants from donors in asystole and, again, the one that registers the greatest transplant activity of this type. In 2022, the asystole transplant rate was 40.4 per million population in Spain, followed by Belgium, which performed 26.9 transplants from this type of donor per million population. “Transplants in asystole are producing record numbers, which represents progress in our national strategy. We are world leaders, it is a source of pride,” said Miñones.
The World Observatory reflects the important Spanish contribution to organ donation: last year our country contributed 24% of organ donations in the EU and 5% of those registered in the world, despite the fact that Spain barely represents 11% of the European population and 0.6% of the world population. This success reflects the robustness of the Spanish model, which is based on a management system whose fundamental pillar is the transplant coordinator – mainly an intensive professional – and the generosity of society.
With a rate of 47 donors per million population in 2022, Spain remains the country with the highest donation activity globally, followed by the United States, with 44.5 donors per million population. Regarding transplant activity, Spain reached a rate of 115.3 transplants per million population in 2022, a figure that was only surpassed by the United States, with 130.7 transplants, which is justified by the profile of its deceased donors, who are younger and have less comorbidity, as well as by the significant living donor transplantation activity in the North American country. The increase in donations that the United States has experienced in recent years is closely linked to deaths from drug overdoses in the context of a socio-sanitary crisis that is hitting this country hard. While donors who died from drug overdose are an exception in Spain, in the United States 17% of their donors die from this cause.
27,952 transplants in the EU in 2022
Donation and transplantation activity in the EU as a whole recorded figures higher than those of previous years. With 9,305 donors and a rate of 20.9 deceased donors per million population, 27,952 organ transplants were performed in the EU last year, which corresponds to a rate of 62.8 transplants per million population. The increase in donation was 7% in the European Community and that of transplants 6% with respect to the activity registered in 2021.
18% of kidney transplants and 3% of liver transplants carried out in the European Union in 2022 were from living donors. According to data from the World Observatory, in the EU every day ten patients die while waiting for a transplant.