Why is Organ Donation so Important?

Did you know Valentine’s Day also coincides with another honorary day? February 14th, a celebratory day of love and affection, is also National Donor Day. These 2 days share an important theme, one of giving, caring, and thinking of others. National Donor Day is an observance dedicated to spreading awareness and education about organ, eye and tissue donation, and an important reminder of the act of love and the incredible gift one can give—the gift of life through organ donation.

The need for organ, eye and tissue donors far outweighs the supply, which is why it’s critical to increase the amount of donors. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Division of Transplantation (DoT), there are over 103,000 women, men, and children on the national transplant waiting list. The HRSA also estimates that every 8 minutes, another person is added to the transplant waiting list, and each donor can save 8 lives and enhance over 75 more. The demand for kidney donations is the highest, with 88,000+ people on the transplant waiting list, followed by the liver as the second most needed organ for transplants. 

So, what’s the process of matching donors with recipients? The most important matching factor is the organ itself. Blood type and body size are also key criteria to analyze for the donor/recipient match. Other common factors include the stage of the patient’s medical condition, hospital distance between the donor and the patient, patient’s wait time, and if the patient is available for communication. There’s a different policy for each organ and it’s key to note that some organs can survive outside the body longer than others. 

Most Common Organs Needed  


  • Many kidneys can survive outside the body for 36 to 48 hours
  • Other factors used to match kidney donors and recipients include a negative lymphocytotoxic cross-match and the number of HLA antigens in common between the donor and the receiving patient based on tissue typing


  • Livers can survive outside the body for 12 to 15 hours
  • Livers are typically offered to whichever patient has the highest MELD or PELD score


  • A heart can only survive outside the body for four to six hours
  • A key consideration for matching donor to recipient is the distance between the donor and the recipient’s hospital
  • Body size is also an important factor since the donated heart must fit comfortably inside the receiving patient’s rib cage


  • Lungs can only survive outside the body for four to six hours
  • Distance between hospitals is also strongly considered
  • Body size is also a factor since the lungs must fit within the rib cage


  • The pancreas can survive outside the body for 12 to 18 hours
  • A pancreas match depends on how well the blood types match


  • The intestines can survive outside the body for 8 to 16 hours
  • An identical ABO blood group match is an important factor for the donor and recipient match. There’s a higher risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) if the ABO blood group isn’t identical
  • The stomach shrinks in many patients waiting for intestines, so there’s a common need for the donor's body size to be smaller than the patient’s body size so that the intestine will fit.


HRSA: Organdonor.gov: Organ Donation Statistics

HRSA: Organdonor.gov: Matching Donors and Recipients


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