02/13/2012 03:00 EST | Updated 04/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Rate of organ donations in Canada remains about the same from 2006 to 2010

TORONTO - The need for organs for transplant still outpaces the supply in Canada, says a new report on organ donation.

In 2010, 557 living organ donors and 465 deceased donors contributed to 2,103 solid organ transplants — and the Canadian Institute for Health Information says the numbers are similar to what they were in 2006.

"Organ donations, whether they're from living or dead donors, have remained relatively stagnant since 2006, and while that doesn't sound like a problem, the need for organs has actually increased considerably over the same time period," said Claire Marie Fortin, manager of clinical registries at the institute.

"So in fact the gap between organ donation and organ transplant is growing, and that's affecting quite a number of people."

The report, released Monday, mainly focuses on donations of five solid organs: kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and pancreas. It said that in 2010, 229 people died while waiting for organs.

The living donor rate fell to 16.3 per million population in 2010, from 17 per million population four years earlier. The deceased donor rate was 13.6 donors per million population in 2010 compared to 14 donors per million population in 2006.

Most patients who are waiting for a transplant need a kidney — 3,362 were on the waiting list in 2010, while 1,248 received a kidney transplant.

"If the organ donation rate isn't keeping pace (with demand), we have far more people on dialysis waiting for a kidney and sadly some will die," Fortin said.

The need for more kidneys is attributed to a substantial increase in diabetes in the population in the past two decades. One in three people with kidney failure has diabetes, Fortin said.

Prevention of Type 2 diabetes is key, she indicated, noting the efforts of groups like the Canadian Diabetes Association to encourage healthy eating and higher activity levels.

The report said there were an estimated 39,352 people living with end-stage renal disease in Canada at the end of 2010, more than triple the number recorded in 1991. There were 23,188 on dialysis and 16,164 living with a functioning kidney transplant.

More than 5,600 patients were newly diagnosed with kidney failure in 2010, the report said.

The cost of dialysis is about $60,000 per year for each patient. And Fortin said there's a personal cost to patients, who might have to travel for the treatment and could be losing time from work and other activities.

"A one-time kidney transplant costs $23,000, and each year, about $6,000 for anti-rejection drugs," she said.

"If you think about it, if we had ... for every kidney patient, if we had a transplant, we'd be saving $250,000 every five years. That's a huge saving to the system."

Fortin indicated there is a good news story embedded in the report: the fact that fewer people are dying of traumatic injuries than in the past. Donated organs often come from young adults whose lives end unexpectedly, and who have healthy organs that can be retrieved, she noted.