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Transplant carried out every two hours in Spain's hospitals, which top global donor list for 24th year
SPANISH hospitals carry out an organ transplant every two hours, according to figures released for the past year.
In the time it takes between shops closing for lunch and reopening in the afternoon in Spain, surgeons will have implanted between six and nine new life-saving organs from the country's 39.7 donors per million inhabitants – more than anywhere else in the world.
This means Spain has been global number one for organ donations for the past 24 years.
Its nearest rival is Croatia, with 35 donors per million inhabitants – a long way ahead of the USA which, despite being larger than the whole of Europe, only receives donations from 26 people in every million.
With 13 transplants a day carried out, or 4,769 a year – according to data from the -National Transplant Organisation – Spain is doing better than any other country and has still seen a 10% rise in the last year.
In 2014, a total of 1,682 donations were made, rising to 1,851 in 2015, with transplant operations up by 9.4% and reaching historic highs in terms of kidney, liver and lung replacements.
Last year alone, 2,905 patients were given new kidneys – many of which came from living donors – representing an 8.5% hike.
Another 1,162 received new livers, up by 9%, plus 299 heart and 294 lung transplants were carried out, a rise of 13% and 12% respectively.
A 20% increase in pancreatic transplants saw 97 new organs fitted, and intestinal transplants, of which 12 were effected in 2015, doubled in number.
Of the 1,851 annual donors, 17% were clinically dead – with no heartbeat – when their organs were taken, as opposed to either brain-dead patients whose hearts are kept beating by life support so that their organs are still functioning, or those who are alive when they donate, such as a kidney or a small portion of the liver.
In nearly two-thirds of cases, donors have died from strokes or brain haemorrhages, and a sharp decline has been seen in the number of donors who died in car crashes – just 4.2% of the total, the lowest in Spain's transplant history.
Overall, ever since the new road safety law was passed a decade ago, motor-crash death donors have dropped by 70%.
Only around 15.3% of families refuse to allow their deceased loved ones' organs to be used for transplants.
Waiting lists for organs have risen since 2012, but fell in the last year – whilst donors are on the rise, the number of patients who need transplants is rising even faster.
Last year's waiting list sat at 5,552, reduced from the previous year's 5,571 but higher than the 2012 figure of 5,513, and well above the record low of 5,418 seen in the year 2013.
Spanish surgeons' prolific transplanting reached new highs on December 14, when the country beat its own record – in just 24 hours, hospitals throughout the country collectively implanted 38 new organs from 16 donors, involving teams of 600 professionals nationally.
Whilst the average donor figure for Spain is 39.7 per million, some regions nearly double that figure – La Rioja is top of the list at 78.9 per million inhabitants, and Cantabria is just behind at 73.5.
Many other regions are comfortably above average – Navarra had 54.6 donors per million residents last year, whilst the Basque Country had 53, Extremadura had 45.7, and Murcia had 44.3.
Although Murcia is only at number six out of the country's 17 regions for donors per million dwellers, its main hospital, the Virgen de la Arrixaca in the provincial capital, receives the highest number of organs in the country, whilst A Coruña University Hospital Centre in the north-western region of Galicia carries out the most transplants.
In terms of percentage of the population, the Basque Country has the highest figure for donors, followed by La Rioja, Cantabria, Extremadura, Murcia and the Canary Islands, in that order.
Recently, Salamanca University Hospital in the centre-northern region of Castilla y León reported it had carried out Spain's first-ever non-rejected face transplant, and last year, a woman from Andalucía became the first living person in Spain to donate a kidney to her grandchild.
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