A Retrospective Evaluation of Changing Health Characteristics Amongst Deceased Organ Donors in the United States

Transplant Proc. 2023 Mar;55(2):251-262. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2023.02.010. Epub 2023 Mar 3.


Background: The availability of suitable donor organs remains a limiting factor to performing life-saving transplant operations. This study evaluates changes in the health of the donor population and its influence on organ use in the United States.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed using the OPTN STAR data file from 2005 to 2019. Three donor eras were defined: 1) 2005 to 2009, 2) 2010 to 2014, and 3) 2015 to 2019. The primary outcome was donor use, defined as transplantation of at least one solid organ. Descriptive analyses were performed, and associations of donor use were examined with multivariable logistic regression models. P values <.01 were considered significant.

Results: The cohort included 132,783 potential donors of which 124,729 (93.9%) were used for transplantation. Donor median age was 42 years (interquartile range 26-54), 53,566 (40.3%) were female, and 88,209 (66.4%) were White, 21,834 (16.4%) were black, and 18,509 (13.9%) were Hispanic. Compared with donors from Eras 1 and 2, donors in Era 3 were younger (P < .001), had higher body mass index (BMI) (P < .001), increased rates of diabetes mellitus (DM) (P < .001), hepatitis C virus (HCV) positivity (P < .001) and more comorbidities (P < .001). Multivariable modeling found donor BMI, DM, hypertension, and HCV status as health factors significantly associated with donor use. Compared with Era 1, there was increased use in Era 3 of donors with BMI ≥30 kg/m2, DM, hypertension, HCV-positive status, and donors with ≥3 comorbidities.

Conclusions: Despite an increasing prevalence of chronic health problems in the donor population, donors with multiple comorbid conditions are more likely to be used for transplantation in recent years.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Tissue Donors
  • United States / epidemiology