3 ways to save more lives with organ transplants: Mayo Clinic

Seventeen people die per day awaiting organ transplants and top health systems and hospitals like Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic continue to seek ways to improve outcomes for the 104,000 patients on organ transplant waiting lists in the U.S.

Even though 2022 was the 12th consecutive year on record for deceased organ donations, one of the persistent challenges is the lack of viable donated organs, according to an April 5 news release from Mayo Clinic. However, experts say medical advances are working to solve challenges like this — one of which includes expanding the pool of transplant donations.

Three key ways to expand the pool of donations:

  1. Donations after circulatory deaths — Heart and lung organs from deaths in which a patient dies, and their heart has stopped beating are becoming more common, but in the past organs from deaths like these were not used. Now, according to the Mayo Clinic "experts can resuscitate the heart on a heart-lung bypass machine or in an out-of-the-body perfusion device to become a donor."

  2. Creation of organ-perfusion systems — These devices allow organs to survive and remain viable outside of a human body until they can be transplanted have also helped expand the pool of transplant options.

  3. Organ donations from hepatitis C donors — Previously organ donations from patients who had tested positive for hepatitis C were not considered usable for transplants. Now, this is possible because of improved and highly effective antiviral medications. After the organ from such a case is transplanted "patients begin antiviral treatment that typically eliminates the virus from the body in seven days," according to the Mayo Clinic.

Each year, the Mayo Clinic performs nearly 2,000 solid organ and bone marrow transplants and has expanded its research and patient outcome efforts in this area since the clinic performed its first transplant in 1963.

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