MADRID – Spain has been a world reference in the field of organ transplants for 32 years. Last year, the country exceeded the historic maximum before the pandemic. Moreover, it shows the success of the Spanish transplant system.
According to figures from the Spanish Transplant Organisation, ONT, Spain performed an average of 16 organ transplants per day in 2023. In a press conference, the Spanish Minister of Health praises the ONT’s transplant model. She not only praises the excellent system but also says that it shows how much Spanish society attaches to solidarity. Furthermore, she mentions the importance of saving and improving lives.
The general director of the ONT indicates that never before have so many transplants been performed since registration began. Spain has now completed 140,000 transplants.
Spain pioneer in the field of organ transplants
Spain is a pioneer in the field of transplants and the number of transplants per year is growing. In 2023, the donation rate was 48.9 donors per million inhabitants. In addition, more than 400 people donated a kidney or, in some cases, part of their liver. The number of transplants and the number of donations have therefore grown to record levels.
Number of donors in Spain is high
The percentage of donors in Spain is much higher than the average in the European Union, which is 21 donors per million inhabitants. Only the United States comes close to Spain’s donation rate. But according to the director of the ONT, the donor profile in the US is very different. 87% of deceased donors there died of a drug overdose.
In Spain, donors come from all regions. The ranking is led by Cantabria, followed by Navarra and Murcia. In more than a thousand cases, donated organs crossed the border to another autonomous region.
New kidney changes life
The increase in the number of transplants was widespread in 2023. In addition to the record number of transplants, the figures for kidney transplants (both from living and deceased donors), liver and lung transplants also exceeded all records.
The Spanish Minister of Health emphasises that a new kidney can profoundly change the life of someone who can stop dialysis. She also says that those who live in Spain have the greatest chance in the world of receiving an organ if needed.
Most donors are over sixty
The profile of organ donors in Spain is similar to that of previous years. Only 4.7% of donors died as a result of a traffic accident. The leading cause of death for donors was stroke. More than half of the donors were over sixty. The oldest donor in 2023 was 92 years old.
Choosing a transplant is a matter of life or death
The director of the ONT reports that older donors mainly donate liver or kidneys. “A heart of an 80-year-old is not transplanted, because the heart is very sensitive to aging.” This is different with lungs. However, in that case the organ has a lower survival expectancy and may function less well than a young organ. “However, you cannot compare the two,” says the director. She emphasises that “the consideration being made is about ‘staying on the waiting list’, resulting in dialysis or death, or transplantation. Organs from older donors are also usually transplanted to people who are also older.”