Patterns of Organ Retrieval in Canada


Despite significant progress in the field of organ transplantation, the shortage of suitable donors remains one of the most pressing challenges. In Canada, waiting lists are common for every major organ, with waits lasting up to several years. Part of the challenge in organ transplantation is not simply the lack of donors, but the extent to which potential donors are suitable matches for recipients. In order for a transplant to be successful, organ donors need to match on a wide range of clinical factors such as blood type and organ size, and there is a need to take into consideration issues such as severity of the underlying illness and length of time on the waiting list.

To address the shortage of suitable organs, a number of approaches have been used. One is to promote and facilitate organ donation by increasing awareness of the issue and have more people sign organ donor cards. Live donation is also an option, but is primarily restricted to kidney transplants, provided that a suitable donor can be found. Another approach involves reassessing and perhaps relaxing existing donation and transplantation criteria. As techniques and treatments improve, it may be possible to use organs from donors who were previously thought to be unsuitable. Advanced age is often considered a limiting factor for organ donation, but older donors may often be quite suitable, provided that they are in good medical condition.

In addition to increasing the total number of donors by the approaches outlined above, another alternative to be considered is whether the number of organs from deceased donors can be increased. A single donor in good health has the potential to donate heart, liver, two lungs, two kidneys, pancreas, and bowel to a number of different recipients.  However, in reality this is not always the case. For a number of reasons, not all potential organs are retrieved from every donor. The purpose of this report is to examine the variations and trends in organ retrieval among donors in Canada.

This report is presented under the following topics:

Notes and Caveats

Data used in this report includes the years 1991 to 2004 and were extracted from CORR on March 16, 2006.

All data may be subject to future revision.

This issue of CORR inSITES was prepared by CIHI's CORR Senior Analyst, Frank Ivis. This electronic report presents analyses that have not formerly been published by CIHI/CORR.

When using this report or parts thereof, please ensure appropriate citation.

Suggested citation:
Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) (2006). Patterns of Organ Retrieval in Canada.

CORR Mandate

The Canadian Organ Replacement Register (CORR) is the national information system that collects, records, analyses and reports the level of activity and outcomes of vital organ transplantation and renal dialysis. Managed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), CORR provides statistics that track long-term trends for organ transplantation, organ donation and renal dialysis activity, and makes comparative data available in order to facilitate better treatment decisions.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI’s goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI’s data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health. CORR became a registry of CIHI in 1995.

Comments and questions should be forwarded to:
CORR Consultant
Tel. (416) 481-2002 / Fax (416) 481-2950