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The Waiting List

It helps to understand how the waiting list for your organ works.

The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) manages the waiting list for organ donation. UNOS is a federally-contracted, non-profit organization that matches donors to recipients and ensures that organ allocation policies are followed.

Thousands of people are currently on the organ waiting list. A person’s position on the list depends on a number of factors, based on the needed organ. The transplant team at Johns Hopkins will help you understand the waiting list in relation to your transplant.


The sickest patients get priority on the heart transplant waiting list. Factors include length of time on the list, organ match (blood type and body size), and the geographic distance of the deceased donor to the transplant center.

Kidney / Pancreas

Patients who do not have a living donor rely on the waiting list to secure a new kidney and/or pancreas. A person’s position on the waiting list for a kidney and/or pancreas can be affected by his or her length of time on the wait list and a blood type and antigen match to available organ.


Wait time for a liver depends on a patient’s MELD (Model for End-stage Liver Disease) or PELD (Pediatric End-stage Liver Disease) score. These scores range from 6 (less ill) to 40 (gravely ill), and are based on three routine lab test results: bilirubin, which measures liver damage; creatinine, which measures kidney function; and INR, which evaluates clotting. The average score for transplant is around 22.


Patients are assigned a Lung Allocation Score (LAS), based on lung function, pulmonary artery pressure, oxygen needs, pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, and other general conditions. LAS range from 0 (less ill) to 100 (gravely ill). Scores are updated every six months based on regularly scheduled testing, or at any point if a patient’s clinical status changes.