Matching organs. Saving lives.


In 1954, the kidney was the first human organ to be transplanted successfully. Liver, heart and pancreas transplants were successfully performed by the late 1960s, while lung and intestinal organ transplant procedures were begun in the 1980s.

Until the early 1980s, the potential of organ rejection limited the number of transplants performed. Medical advances in the prevention and treatment of rejection led to more successful transplants and an increase in demand.

UNOS’ beginnings

On March 21, 1984, UNOS was incorporated as an independent, non-profit organization, committed to saving lives through uniting and supporting the efforts of donation and transplantation professionals. Learn more >

Also in 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) called for an Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) to be created and run by a private, non-profit organization under federal contract. The federal Final Rule provides a regulatory framework for the structure and operation of the OPTN.

UNOS was first awarded the national OPTN contract in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. UNOS continues as the only organization ever to operate the OPTN. As part of the OPTN contract, UNOS has:

  • established an organ sharing system that maximizes the efficient use of deceased organs through equitable and timely allocation
  • established a system to collect, store, analyze and publish data pertaining to the patient waiting list, organ matching, and transplants
  • informed, consulted and guided persons and organizations concerned with human organ transplantation in order to increase the number of organs available for transplantation

Many facets of organ donation and transplantation have changed since UNOS’ founding. Our dedication and mission have not changed. We continually seek to meet the needs of transplant candidates by maintaining a fair and effective national transplant network. Yet ultimately, every transplant is made possible by someone’s decision to help another through organ donation.

The following highlights show how UNOS has grown and developed over the years. The history of our organization is still being written; this illustrates the progress of our community thus far.

Date Event
1954 First successful kidney transplant performed.
1966 First simultaneous kidney/pancreas transplant performed.
1967 First successful liver transplant performed.
1968 First successful isolated pancreas transplant performed.

First successful heart transplant performed.

The Southeast Organ Procurement Foundation (SEOPF) is formed as a membership and scientific organization for transplant professionals.

1977 SEOPF implements the first computer-based organ matching system, dubbed the “United Network for Organ Sharing.”
1981 First successful heart-lung transplant performed.
1982 SEOPF establishes the Kidney Center, the predecessor of the UNOS Organ Center, for round-the-clock assistance in placing donated organs.
1983 First successful single-lung transplant performed.

Cyclosporine, the first of a number of drugs that effectively treat organ rejection by suppressing the human immune system, introduced.

1984 National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) passed.

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) separates from SEOPF and is incorporated as a non-profit member organization.

1986 First successful double-lung transplant performed.
UNOS receives the initial federal contract to operate the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) and Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients.
1987 First successful intestinal transplant performed. UNOS begins collecting medical data on donor and transplant recipients.

1988 First split-liver transplant performed.
1989 First successful living donor liver transplant performed.
1990 First successful living donor lung transplant performed.
1992 UNOS helps found Donate Life America to build public support for organ donation.

UNOS prepares first-ever comprehensive report on transplant survival rates for all active U.S. transplant centers.

1995 UNOS launches its first Web site for all users with an interest in transplantation.
1996 UNOS creates TIEDI®, a new application that collect data electronically and eliminates the need for mailing paper forms to the OPTN.
1998 First successful adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant performed.
1999 UNOS launches UNetsm, a secure, Internet-based transplant information database system for all organ matching and management of transplant data.
2000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes Final Rule (federal regulation) for the operation of the OPTN.
2001 For the first time, the total of living organ donors for the year (6,528) exceeds the number of deceased organ donors (6,081).
2006 UNOS launches DonorNetsm, a secure, Internet-based system in which organ procurement coordinators send out offers of newly donated organs to transplant hospitals with compatible candidates.
2014 Vascularized composite allographs (VCAs) is added to the definition of organs covered by federal regulation (the OPTN Final Rule) and legislation (the National Organ Transplant Act). The designation went into effect on July 3, 2014.
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