Increasing the Number of Organ Transplants in the United States by Optimizing Donor Authorization Rates

D. S. Goldberg, B. French, P. L. Abt, R. K. Gilroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


While recent policies have focused on allocating organs to patients most in need and lessening geographic disparities, the only mechanism to increase the actual number of transplants is to maximize the potential organ supply. We conducted a retrospective cohort study using OPTN data on all "eligible deaths" from 1/1/08 to 11/1/13 to evaluate variability in donor service area (DSA)-level donor authorization rates, and to quantify the potential gains associated with increasing authorization rates. Despite adjustments for donor demographics (age, race/ethnicity, cause of death) and geographic factors (rural/urban status of donor hospital, statewide participation in deceased-donor registries) among 52 571 eligible deaths, there was significant variability (p < 0.001) in donor authorization rates across the 58 DSAs. Overall DSA-level adjusted authorization rates ranged from 63.5% to 89.5% (median: 72.7%). An additional 773-1623 eligible deaths could have been authorized, yielding 2679-5710 total organs, if the DSAs with authorization rates below the median and 75th percentile, respectively, implemented interventions to perform at the level of the corresponding reference DSA. Opportunities exist within the current organ acquisition framework to markedly improve DSA-level donor authorization rates. Such initiatives would mitigate waitlist mortality while increasing the number of transplants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2117-2125
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • donors and donation
  • donors and donation: donation after brain death (DBD)
  • organ procurement
  • organ procurement organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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