A healthcare worker prepares surgical equipment for a transplant. Photo: AFP / Video: EP

Spain reaffirms world leader position with record donation and transplant figures

Last year, Spanish hospitals implanted almost 6,000 organs, a record number, and increased their world leadership in donations

Alfonso Torices


Sunday, 21 January 2024, 08:21


Last year, Spain reaffirmed its world leadership in donation and transplants by returning to record figures, following the pandemic, with a medical programme that is the pride and international flagship of the public health system.

The transplant activity of Spanish hospitals overcame the slump caused by Covid-19 and with almost 6,000 interventions surpassed the historical maximum of 2019 and reaffirmed itself as the second country in the world, after the USA, with the highest number of these surgeries – 122 per million.

In terms of donations, Spain is unparalleled on the planet. For the 31st consecutive year, it is the country in which people and their families show the greatest generosity with 2,346 organ donations: a rate of 48.9 donors per million inhabitants. This rate is higher than the 44.5 donors per million inhabitants in the USA, and is two and a half times the number of organ donations in European Union hospitals.

In Spain there is an average of eight donations and 16 transplants every day. "These are levels of excellence that are difficult to surpass," said the director general of the National Transplant Organisation (ONT), Beatriz Domínguez-Gil.

Both Domínguez-Gil and the minister of Health, Mónica García, agreed that the underlying reasons for the country's success are to be found in the generosity of the Spanish people and their families and in a well-oiled and coordinated donation and transplant system led by the ONT and based on top-level healthcare teams.

Growth has been widespread in the last twelve months, with record numbers of kidney, liver and lung transplants and the consolidation of other recent transplants such as intestinal transplants. Nearly 200 of the recipients were children and 314 of the patients had an imminent life-threatening condition. Despite the enormous levels of success of the Spanish transplant programme, 4,790 people are still on the waiting list for an organ or tissue.

The profile of the Spanish organ donor remains similar to that of recent years. The main cause of death is cerebrovascular accidents (such as strokes or aneurysms). Traffic accidents now account for only 4.7%. The vast majority of donors are more than 60 years of age. The oldest donor in 2023 was 92 years old.

Donation rates in Spain are extremely high, but three regions that stand out for their generosity. Cantabria, with 74 organ donations per million, leads the Spanish ranking, followed by Navarre (71.6) and Murcia (71).

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