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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Organ Donor > Learn > Who Can Donate > Pediatric Donation

Organ Donation and Children

Pediatric donation is a difficult subject. The loss of a child or infant is always tragic, and the option of organ, eye and tissue donation is especially hard on parents, who are the decision makers in such an event. Below are important facts about teen, child, and infant donation.

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Currently, over 1,900 children under the age of 18 are on the national transplant waiting list.

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Over 1,700 children received transplants in 2020.

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There were over 860 pediatric organ donors in 2020. Although they ranged from newborns to age 17, most were age 11 to 17. Over 121 pediatric organ donors in 2020 were babies under the age of 12 months.

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Body size and donation: The size of the body and the organ are taken into account when matching donors to recipients. That's why very small children most often receive donations from other young people—although older children and adults can often match. Sometimes, children can receive donations of partial organs such as a piece of a liver or lung. 

Read Caitlin's story to learn more >

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The organs that children tend to need most varies by age:

  • Most children under the age of 1 year are waiting for a liver or a heart, followed by liver.
  • Most children age 1 to 10 are waiting for a kidney or liver, followed by heart.
  • Most children age 11 to 17 are primarily waiting for a kidney, followed by a heart.
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Pediatric donation is different from adult donation. When a potential donor is under the age of 18, the parent or legal guardian always has to authorize the donation.  In many states, people younger than 18 can sign up as organ donors when they get their learner's permit or driver's license. However, in most states if the child dies before age 18, the parents must make the donation decision.

For more current and in-depth statistics about donations, transplants, waiting list and waiting times, view current OPTN data reports >

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