Feb 11, 2020 - Health

Kidneys on flights are getting delayed like luggage

Human organ transplant box

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Transporting kidneys on commercial flights for transportation can put the organs in jeopardy, thanks to delays and logistical problems, Kaiser Health News and Reveal reports.

Why it matters: Organs can only be outside of the body for a certain number of hours before doctors will refuse to put them inside patients.

By the numbers: Data on more than 8,800 organ and tissue shipments were collected voluntarily between 2014 and 2019 by the United Network for Organ Sharing.

  • Nearly 170 organs could not be transplanted and almost 370 endured what the system calls “near misses,” with delays of two hours or more.
  • 22 additional organs were transportation “failures” and were able to be transplanted elsewhere.

The bottom line: Organ distribution lacks a centralized transportation system, relying on multiple partners like non-profits, doctors, career services and several domestic airlines to transport a kidney. It can lead to confusion and logistics problems where in the end, the patient suffers.

Go deeper