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THURSDAY, May 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- In the United States, organ donor rates are highest in the Midwest and lowest in New York state, a new study finds.
"With over 10,000 patients a year dying on a transplant waiting list or becoming too sick to undergo a transplant, these data highlight the potential opportunity to save hundreds of more lives each year by increasing consent rates among potential organ donors," said senior study author Dr. Richard Gilroy, medical director of liver transplantation at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City.
The researchers looked at more than 52,500 people who died between 2008 and 2013, and who were considered eligible for organ donation -- meaning they were brain dead, age 70 or younger and free of health problems that would have prevented the use of their organs.
Consent for donation was obtained in 73 percent of those cases, with consent rates highest in cases where patients were younger than 55, white and when the referral from the local hospital was made in a "timely" manner, according to the researchers.
Overall, consent rates were lower among blacks, Hispanics and Asians than among whites. However, consent rates along racial/ethnic lines varied considerably in different regions of the United States.
"These data demonstrate that although the underlying demographics of the donor population may contribute to geographic differences in organ consent rates, it clearly is not the major driving factor," study lead author Dr. David Goldberg, an assistant professor in the gastroenterology division at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
"Although there may be underlying cultural or religious differences leading to variable consent rates, the dramatic differences in consent rates among younger [whites] clearly show that race alone cannot explain geographic differences in organ donor consent rates," he explained.
The study was published May 28 in the American Journal of Transplantation.
More than 123,000 Americans are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, and 21 die each day because they can't get a new organ, the study authors said.
"By increasing organ donor consent rates, and optimizing how we utilize a scarce resource, the transplant community can help [the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network] achieve its highest priority of increasing the number of transplants each year in the U.S.," Gilroy added.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, news release, May 28, 2015