July 21st, 2024

Organ donations on the rise in Canada

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 29, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The Canadian Institute for Health Information, an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing essential health information to all Canadians, says new data shows organ donations and transplantations across Canada are on the rise.

“The exciting trends that we saw in data from 2022 at a national level is that Canada’s organ donation and transplantation numbers are starting to really show recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Katrina Sullivan, program lead of the Organ Donation and Transplantation project and Canadian Organ Replacement Register at the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

She said there were a total of 1,403 organ donors last year, which represents a five per cent improvement over 2021 and 2,886 transplants, also a five per cent increase over 2021.

“There was one category which is disease donations where in 2022 is actually the highest it’s ever been in the last decade and that’s 827 diseased donors, and that is very positive to see that total of 827 donors was actually 12 per cent higher than it was in 2021, so that was a pretty huge jump number,” said Sullivan.

In terms of the data at a provincial level, Sullivan said Alberta was following those trends and even exceeded them.

“One of the big things that we saw from Alberta is that in 2022 there was 97 deceased donors and that’s actually a 41 per cent increase over 2021, so that was huge and really exciting to see. That contributed to our total organ donors, which would be deceased donors and living donors, so that number as a total increased by 16 per cent compared to 2021,” said Sullivan.

 She said the data also shows the number of transplants increased by 23 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021, with 497 transplants.

Sullivan said they are able to share this data with the public thanks to multiple organ donations organizations across Canada, with the southern Alberta organ and tissue donation program and the human organ procurement and exchange program providing them with organ donation data, and the University of Alberta transplant services and the southern Alberta transplant program providing provincial data on transplantations.

“In terms of wait times for a transplant, and this is as of Dec. 31, 2022, because we just take a snapshot on that day, there was a total of 486 people in Alberta who were waiting for a transplant. The vast majority of those are for kidneys, 259 of them are waiting for a kidney, and that number is always the highest one because kidneys are one of the few organs where you can replace it temporarily, which is dialysis,” said Sullivan.

She said in 2022 a total of 44 people in Alberta died while waiting for a transplant.

Sullivan explained the number of people on the transplant list varies as people come on and off the list through the year for various reasons, and that is why they take a snapshot of the data on the last day of the year.

“When it comes to specific organ waiting list data as of Dec. 31 2022, there was 259 people waiting for a kidney, 53 waiting for a liver, zero people waiting for intestine, 36 people waiting for a heart, 89 for a lung, 28 for a pancreas and 21 waiting for multiple organs, which total 486 people in Alberta waiting for a transplant,” said Sullivan.

When comparing the data with pre-pandemic data of 2019, Sullivan said Alberta is ahead on bringing the numbers back to pre-pandemic numbers.

“Alberta is doing really well. For deceased donors compared to 2019 they are actually up 41 per cent, so Alberta has exceeded where they were in 2019 for deceased donors, correspondingly if we are looking at total donors, which would be the combination of deceased donors and living donors they are up 13 per cent compared to 2019, and transplants are also up 15 per cent,” said Sullivan.

When comparing these figures with national data Sullivan said Alberta is ahead in all those categories.

 “Nationally if we are looking at compared to 2019 for deceased donors it’s plus one percent, while Alberta is at plus 41 percent, and transplants at a national level between 2019 versus 2022 is at minus four percent, while Alberta is at plus 15 per cent,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan explained there are a few reasons why it is important to share this information with Canadians, especially with those who have the power to make decisions.

“One of the large reasons is because we do have this information going to policy makers and decision makers, who then can make decisions for their programs or legislation can use this information to create policies, as well as organ donation and transplantation is always something that is of interest and something that people is always trying to improve,” said Sullivan.

She said sharing these type of data helps organizations and municipalities make decisions like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick now utilizing an opt out program for organ donation.

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