Wait lists improving for some organs as deceased donor numbers jump in Canada

New data released by Canadian Blood Services and the Canadian Institute for Health Information highlights increase in donation rates

(OTTAWA) — Over the last 10 years, the rate of deceased organ donation has increased 42%, according to the latest numbers released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and Canadian Blood Services. Close to 2,900 lifesaving transplants were performed in Canada in 2016.

New data are being released today through the Canadian Blood Services’ Organ Donation and Transplantation Report: System Progress Report and Donation and Transplantation Interprovincial Programs Report and CIHI’s Canadian Organ Replacement Register Annual Statistics.

Together, the data provide a more fulsome picture of Canada's donation and transplantation activities across the provinces and territories over a 10-year period.

System changes increasing deceased donors

Since 2011, the number of deceased donors in Canada has increased steadily, with notable jumps in 2015 and 2016 (10% and 17% year-over-year increases, respectively). In 2016, there were 758 deceased donors in Canada. Each deceased donor can provide up to eight organs for transplantation.

Contributing to this increase is a rise in the number of organ donations from patients who have experienced circulatory death — meaning their hearts have permanently stopped beating— and neurological death — meaning their brain has permanently lost all function.

“Donations through cardiac and neurological deaths have had an important impact on wait lists for organ transplants. In particular, we’re starting to see a decrease in the number of patients on wait lists for lung and liver transplants, which is a very good sign for patients and the health care system as a whole.”

– Greg Webster, Director, Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services,
Canadian Institute for Health Information


Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have the highest deceased donation rates in the country. In addition to established donation after circulatory determination of death (DCD) programs, these provinces have also implemented mandatory referral and the presence of in-hospital donation specialists, to ensure donation opportunities are explored.


Living donation on the decline

Although the data reveal encouraging patterns in the growth of deceased donor activity, the rate of living donation has decreased 11% since 2007, with 544 donors in 2016.

British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have the highest living donation rates due to broad system-level changes and an increased focus on living donation through new initiatives such as the interprovincial Kidney Paired Donation Program (KPD) and the Highly Sensitized Patient Kidney Program. These programs find kidneys for the most difficult to match.

The KPD program saw its second most successful year since its inception in 2009. A total of 505 kidney transplants were realized by the end of 2016, demonstrating that provincial health systems can effectively work together to improve transplant outcomes across the country.


“This national living donation program is increasing the number of transplants, which provide patients with a better quality of life by eliminating their need for dialysis. More work remains to be done in living and deceased donation so that more patients with a treatable disease receive a transplant and subsequently come off the wait list.”

- Kimberly Young, Director, Organ Donation and Transplantation,
Canadian Blood Services


End-Stage Kidney Disease in Canada

The CIHI report also includes data on kidney replacement therapy for end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). By the end of 2016, there were 37,647 Canadians (excluding Quebec) living with ESKD — up 36% since 2007. Canadians in need of a new kidney continues to significantly outpace the number of kidneys available.

In 2016, there were 1,731 kidneys transplanted in Canada and 3,421 Canadians still waiting.

Quick Facts


  • 2,835 transplant procedures were performed in Canada in 2016, a 32% increase since 2007.
  • The rate of deceased organ donation in Canada increased 42% since 2007 with notable jumps in 2015 and 2016, with 10% and 17% year-over-year increases respectively.
  • In 2016, there were 758 deceased organ donors in Canada, 109 more than the 649 reported in 2015. In addition, there were 544 living organ donors.
  • In 2016, there were 1,731 kidneys transplanted in Canada and 3,421 Canadians still waiting.
  • Canada still has a shortage of organs, with approximately 4,500 patients still waiting for transplants.
  • In 2016, 260 Canadians died while waiting for a transplant.
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About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.