According to the website of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, a public-private partnership that links professionals involved in organ donations and transplants, nearly 35,000 organ transplants were performed in the U.S. in 2017, a new record. But even with more and more people willing to donate their organs after death, demand still outstrips supply. Nearly 126,000 patients are on U.S. waiting lists for various organs, including more than 103,000 people seeking kidneys, 14,000 who need livers, close to 1,400 potential lung transplant recipients and nearly 4,000 are waiting for donor hearts.
The numbers don't tell the whole tale, because not every patient is a suitable recipient for an available organ, due to differences in blood type and other factors. And transplants sometimes fail. Getting a donor organ to survive inside a recipient's body requires the use of powerful drugs to suppress the immune system and prevent it from rejecting the organ, which doesn't always work. As a result, about 20 percent of the kidney transplants performed each year actually are repeat transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation.