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The Waiting List

Nationally, there are more than 100,000 peoplewaiting for an organ transplant. Learn more about how the waiting list works below.

Bill Murray was on the kidney transplant waiting list for five years, but sadly died before receiving his gift of life.

Bill Murray was on the kidney transplant waiting list for five years, but sadly died before receiving his gift of life.

When a medical evaluation by your transplant hospital confirms that you are a candidate for a transplant, you are added to the national waiting list maintained by The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

The UNOS system creates a ranked list of transplant candidates or “matches” to ensure fair allocation of organs nationwide. Gift of Life collaborates with UNOS to coordinate organ donations in our region and ensure that they go to the patients at the top of the waiting list.

How do I know when I am listed?

Your transplant hospital will let you know within 10 days of your being added to the national waiting list. If you have questions about your status on the list, contact your transplant hospital team.

Can I be listed in more than one region?

Yes. You can be considered for organs that become available in other areas. This is called “multiple listing.” Each transplant hospital is likely to require that you have a separate medical evaluation, even if you are already registered at another center.

Being listed in more than one area may or may not reduce your waiting time. However, there is no advantage to being listed at more than one transplant center in the same Organ Procurement Organization’s service area. If you want be listed in more than one region, tell your primary center and any other centers that you contact.

How long will I have to wait to receive a transplant?

There is no exact timetable for the waiting list. You can get matched quickly, or you may need to wait years for a suitable organ. How long you wait is mainly determined by the availability of donated organs and the degree of compatibility between you and the donor.

The national average wait time for transplant is:

  • Kidney – 5 years
  • Liver – 11 months
  • Heart – 4 months
  • Lung – 4 months
  • Kidney / Pancreas – 1.5 years
  • Pancreas – 2 years

If you move or change telephone numbers while on the waiting list, it is important to tell your transplant center. The center will want to contact you immediately when a suitable organ becomes available.

What are the guidelines for matching organs?

When an organ donor becomes available, all the patients on the national waiting list are compared to that donor. The rules for matching donor organs with patients on the transplant list vary by organ. General matching criteria includes:

  • Medical urgency
  • Blood/tissue type and size match with the donor
  • Genetic makeup
  • Time on the waiting list
  • Proximity between the donor and the recipient
How are organs distributed?

You generally receive preference when a compatible organ donation happens in your local community. Donor organs are distributed locally first, and if no match is found they are offered regionally, and then nationally, until a recipient is found.

Factors such as your income, celebrity status, race or religion play no role in determining allocation of organs.