Long Waiting Lists for Organ Transplants in Iceland Skip to content

Long Waiting Lists for Organ Transplants in Iceland

Physicians at the national hospital of Iceland, Landspítali – University Hospital, have requested that the Ministry of Health reconsider an agreement on organ transplants with the national hospital of Denmark because of long waiting lists.

Patients in Iceland sometimes have to wait up to two years for a new liver and even longer for kidneys. “The waiting period in Denmark is too long,” senior physician in Landspítali’s kidney division Runólfur Pálsson told Morgunbladid. “The need is increasing among us and therefore we are worried.”

Sigurdur Ólafsson, gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Landspítali, said it is timely to examine whether agreements on organ transplants can be reached with hospitals other than the national hospital of Denmark.

Every year one to three Icelanders have a new liver transplanted at The Kingdom’s Hospital in Copenhagen where about the same amount of Icelanders get new kidneys per year. In both Norway and Sweden the waiting lists are much shorter, only about six weeks.

The reason for this development is that liver diseases are increasing in Denmark and at the same time the supply of organs is low, lower than in the other Nordic countries. Since 1993, Icelanders have donated organs to a joint Nordic organ bank and in that period received fewer organs than they have donated.

Liver diseases are on the rise in many parts of the world, primarily because of higher alcohol consumption, drug use and obesity. Cirrhosis is still less common in Iceland than neighboring countries, but that seems to be about to change.

“We are no different from other Western nations, we are only a few years behind,” Ólafsson said.

Cases of hepatitis C and B are on the rise in Iceland, increasing considerably last year. Last year there were 95 cases of hepatitis C in Iceland compared to 56 in 2006. At the same time cases of hepatitis B increased from 16 to 48.

Alcoholism is by far the most common cause of cirrhosis (in 50 to 70 percent of all cases) and hepatitis C is the second most common cause (eight to 12 percent).

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