Demographic and other factors are changing face of organ donations

Successful resuscitation of heart attack victims, including from the use by rescuers of defibrillators following cardiac arrest, has also lowered the rate of potential donors.

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July 19, 2015 18:53
1 minute read.
DR. AVITAL Porter and patient

DR. AVITAL Porter and patient. (photo credit: BINYAMIN ADAM)

Organs for transplants are being donated at older ages than a decade ago, according to Dr. Tamar Ashkenazi, director of Israel Transplant, writing in the latest issue of IMAJ , the Israel Medical Association Journal . In addition, the number of victims of road accidents who suffered severe trauma and became lower-brain dead even though their hearts continued to beat has decreased – even as the demand for lifesaving organs increases. This leaves mostly stroke victims as donors of organs.

Successful resuscitation of heart attack victims, including from the use by rescuers of defibrillators following cardiac arrest, has also lowered the rate of potential donors.

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Demographic data on donors and the causes of death were provided by hospitals around the country. The median age of donors rose from 44 years a decade ago to 53.5 today, she stated. The rate of male donors dropped during this period from 63 percent to 53%. Ashkenazi wrote that her article was the first Israeli survey of its kind.

As the quality of organs declined the older the donor is, she suggests that this “may lead to worse long-term survival after transplantation of kidneys, for example.

But Ashkenazi added that public awareness of the importance of organ donation and the fact that families of the deceased give permission for the removal of multiple organs help raise the number of donations. Transplant surgeons are now more willing to accept organs that they previously would have rejected because they are preserved better and older organs have proven useful as well.

In view of these changes, Ashkenazi said, donation of kidneys by live donors is having a positive impact; some organs are transplanted even if the heart stops; and artificial left ventricular assist devices have proved helpful in keeping patients alive for some time without a human organ transplant.


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