Organ Donation and Transplantation among Non-US Citizens: Opportunities to Improve Global Equity in Heart Transplantation


East Florida


Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

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organ donation, citizenship, equity, heart transplantation


Internal Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences


BACKGROUND: Non-US citizens/non-US residents (NCNR) are a unique and growing population. Patterns of heart donation and heart transplantation (HT) within this subgroup have not been described fully. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of organs from NCNR donors and the characteristics and outcomes of NCNR HT recipients.

METHODS: All adult donors whose hearts were recovered for HT and all primary adult HT recipients from 2013 to 2020 were identified using the United Network for Organ Sharing. Donors and recipients were categorized as citizens, residents, or NCNR. NCNR were further categorized by reason for travel to the United States. Outcomes included mortality, infection, and rejection at 1-year after transplantation.

RESULTS: NCNR accounted for 0.4% (n = 77) of heart donors. Most NCNR donors identified as Hispanic (61%), were predominately recovered from the South and Southwest United States, and were less likely to express written documentation to be a donor compared with citizens and residents. NCNR accounted for 0.7% (n = 147) of all HT recipients. The majority identified as non-Hispanic White individuals (57.1%). Compared with citizens and residents, NCNR recipients seemed to be sicker, as evidenced by higher intra-aortic balloon pump use before HT and higher priority United Network for Organ Sharing status. Of NCNR recipients, 63% traveled to the United States for HT, predominately from Kuwait (29.9%) and Saudi Arabia (20%). At 1-year after transplant, there were no differences in mortality, infection, or rejection between the groups.

CONCLUSIONS: A growing subgroup of NCNR travel from countries with low HT rates to the United States for HT. This finding highlights the need for strategies to improve equitable access to HT domestically and abroad.

Publisher or Conference

Journal of Cardiac Failure