One in 4 EU donors comes from Spain

News - 2023.8.30

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One in four deceased organ donors in the European Union came from Spain in 2022. Spain also performed one in five transplants in the European region last year. Spain is the world leader in organ donation from deceased persons and, in terms of transplant activity, only the United States is ahead of Spain. This is according to the latest report from the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation, which has been managed for 17 years by the National Transplant Organisation as a collaborating centre of the World Health Organisation and whose data are published annually in the European Council's Transplant Newsletter.

The Minister for Health, José Miñones, has praised Spain's leadership in organ donations and transplants. In this sense, he expressed his deep gratitude to "the work of the professionals involved in each of the phases of the process, as well as the coordination of the National Transplant Organisation and the regional governments". In the same vein, he applauded "the solidarity of Spanish society and the greatness of the families who every day say yes to donations that allow many lives to be saved or improved". "They are the protagonists of the worldwide success of the Spanish donation and transplantation model," he added.

According to the Global Observatory, 157,540 organ transplants were performed in 2022 in the 91 countries that have provided their data as of 23 August 2023. Of these, 102,090 were kidney transplants (39% living donor), 37,482 liver transplants (24% living donor), 8,988 heart transplants, 6,784 lung transplants, 2,026 pancreas transplants and 170 intestine transplants. These transplants were made possible by 41,793 deceased donors, in addition to 48,676 living donors (39,601 kidney, 9,061 liver and 14 lung).

Global organ transplantation activity grew by 9% over the previous year, reflecting the significant effort made by many countries to restore organ transplantation programmes after the impact of COVID-19. In particular, there was an increase in kidney transplantation (10%), especially living donor kidney transplantation (13%), followed by liver transplantation (8%), heart transplantation (7%) and lung transplantation (5%).

The expansion of asystole donation across 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, an increase of 12%, confirming its relevance as a way to expand organ donation. However, asystole donation is only performed in 23 countries throughout the world. Among them, with 913 non-heart beating donors and a rate of 19.6 non-heart beating donors per million people, Spain had the highest activity and accounted for half of all non-heart beating donors in the EU as a whole and 10% across the world. Spain is the only country that performs all types of transplants from asystole donors and, once again, the one with the highest transplant activity of this type. In 2022, the rate of asystole transplants was 40.4 per million people in Spain, followed by Belgium, which performed 26.9 asystole transplants per million people. "Asystole transplants are seeing record numbers, which is a breakthrough for Spain's national strategy. Spain is a world leader, which is a source of pride," said Miñones.

The Global Observatory also reflects Spain's important contribution to organ donation: last year, Spain accounted for 24% of organ donations in the EU and 5% of those recorded across the world, despite the fact that Spain represents only 11% of the European population and 0.6% of the world's 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 a professional in intensive care - and the generosity of society.

With a rate of 47 donors per million people in 2022, Spain remains the country with the highest donation activity globally, followed by the United States, with 44.5 donors per million people. In terms of transplant activity, Spain reached a rate of 115.3 transplants per million people in 2022, a figure 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 fewer comorbidities, as well as by the significant living donor transplant activity in the North American country. The increase in donation in the United States in recent years is closely linked to drug overdose deaths in the context of a socio-health crisis that has hit the country hard. While donors who die of drug overdose are an exception in Spain, in the United States 17% of donors die as a result of this cause.

27,952 transplants in the EU in 2022

Donation and transplantation activity in the EU as a whole was higher than in previous years. With 9,305 donors and a rate of 20.9 deceased donors per million people, 27,952 organ transplants were performed in the EU last year, which corresponds to a rate of 62.8 transplants per million people. The increase in donation was 7% in the European Community and in transplantation 6% higher than the activity recorded in 2021.

Furthermore, 18% of kidney transplants and 3% of liver transplants performed in the European Union in 2022 were from living donors. According to data from the Global Observatory, ten patients died every day in the EU while waiting for a transplant.

Non official translation