The Impatient List

What would it be like to be waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States?

More than 114,000 Americans eligible for organ transplants are waiting for a donation, with 80% of them waiting for a kidney transplant.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine just below the rib cage. Their main function is to filter and remove excess waste, minerals and fluid from the blood by producing urine.

When your kidneys lose this filtering ability, harmful levels of fluid and waste accumulate in your body, which can raise your blood pressure and result in kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, which is also known as end-stage kidney disease). End-stage renal disease occurs when the kidneys have lost about 90 percent of their ability to function normally. They can be caused by diabetes, chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure, polycystic kidney disease, etc.

When your kidneys fail, kidney transplant is one of two ways to replace the work your own kidneys can no longer do. Compared to its alternative, dialysis, kidney transplant offers more freedom and better quality of life.

However, getting a transplant is not easy.

To receive a transplant, you must first register yourself on the waitlist of a transplant center. There are 237 of them across the United States.

Since Kidney Transplant can be time sensitive, it is best for you to choose the ones adajacent to where you live. Please enter your zip code to view centers around you:

You’ll also need to compare between centers around you for their death rates, survival rates, and waitlist waiting time, in order to find the optimal center to register as a candidate. How would you balance these different factors, when each choice you make might influence your chance of getting a transplant to being cured?

Click on each pin on the map to view the data for each center compared to other centers around you.

Currently, your state has 4,123 patients like you, waiting for a kidney transplant. 42 % of them have already been waiting for over 2 years

The situation is even worst in other parts of the country.


Georgia has 4,796 waiting for a kidney transplant. 39% of them have already been waiting for over 3 years.


California has the longest waiting list of 19,723 patients, which is the highest in the nation even after population is considered. 44% of those patients have been waiting for over 3 years.


Alabama’s patients tend to wait the longest, with 63% of them staying on the waitlist for over 3 years, almost twice the amount of the national average (34%).

Waitlist length is only part of the story, since different states have different populations and donor registration rates. In addition, donors and recipients need to have compatible blood types, and similar body size (BMI).

What if we consider the ratio between the waitlist and donors for each state, and separate the results by blood type & BMI?

You might have noticed that in general, the waitlist length grows much faster than the donor numbers. How did the waitlist develop into this situation today?

Longer, longer

One reason for the long waiting list is how little the waiting list got reduced each year. This visualization tells you about how the waiting list changes in one year.

Year 2017

First, let's examine how the waiting list changes in last year (2017). At the start of 2017, there were 99064 people on the waiting list. Each pixel in the blue bar indicates one person.

In that year, in addition to keeping waiting, patients on the list have other outcomes. 22775 patients got cured , luckily. 4706 patients got deteoriated, and even worse,4191 died . Over 10 patients died each day on average on the waiting list.

While total 38861 patients left the list, 35590 new patients were added to it.

Luckily, the size of waiting list in 2017 only got reduced around 3000, which is only 3%. However, not all years are like 2017.


Let's start from 1995, and saw the history. You can change the year with the red bar below. Also, you can pause at any time. Scroll to start.

To help 103,202 people on the waitlist, register to be a donor today. One donor could potentially save the lives of 8 people.

Team Members:
Kuhu Gupta, Junjie Xu, Yangfen Jin, Het Sheth

Project Guide:
Prof John Stasko

Data Sources:
Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network

Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients
More Information:
Raw Data can be downloaded here

Code can be downloaded here