Organ donations in China continued to see fast growth in China this year, with the number of organs donated in the first 11 months exceeding 18,000, an increase of 19 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the top health authority.
The number of people who donated organs after death in China reached 5,810 by the end of November, about 13 percent higher than the number for the entire year last year, Guo Yanhong, deputy chief for medical administration and supervision at the National Health Commission, said on Monday.
The total number of donors is expected to exceed 6,000 this year, keeping China in second place among the world's largest organ donors, she said.
"Organ donations in China have kept increasing quickly since 2015, with more and more organs being donated to save lives," Guo said.
"Meanwhile, Chinese physicians are making progress in organ transplant technologies, and a number of world-class centers in transplant surgeries, covering major organs such as liver, kidney, heart and lung, have been established in China," the official said.
China stopped using organs retrieved from executed prisoners for transplants and in 2015 made voluntary donations the only legitimate source. About 2,700 people donated organs after death that year.
"With the increasing number of donations and surgeries performed every year, authorities have also established a computerized supervision system that covers the entire sector, including organ donation, retrieval, distribution and transplant to ensure oversight" by health officials, Guo said.
Chen Jingyu, a lung transplant surgeon at Wuxi People's Hospital, in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, which houses one of the biggest lung-transplant centers in China, said such transplants are the only hope for many patients with terminal lung disease.
The chances of success of such surgeries can reach 90 percent if a patient does not have problems with other major organs, Chen said.
Liu Xiuqin, secretary-general of China Organ Transplantation Development Foundation, said the number of registered organ donors in China has continued to rapidly increase over the past few years, and more than 840,000 people had registered by Dec 2.
Huang Jiefu, former vice-minister of health and chairman of the foundation, said despite progress in organ donations and transplantation, China still faces great challenges to meet demand for organ transplant surgeries.
Every year about 300,000 patients with terminal diseases potentially need organ transplant surgery in China, but only around 20,000 surgeries can be completed due to shortage of organs, he said, adding that more measures should be adopted to encourage organ donations by the public.
Huang also suggested coverage of the costs of organ transplant surgeries by basic medical insurance programs, so that more people can afford such surgeries, which are very costly, to save or extend their lives if they have a chance to receive an organ.
"In addition, we need more doctors specializing in organ transplant surgeries," he said. "Although there are 178 hospitals certified to perform transplant surgeries, it is far from enough, considering demand."