Managing director of Iran’s Organ Donation Association says an annual 2,500 kidney transplants are undertaken in the country.
“Currently, a large number of patients across the Middle East succumb to their health conditions as organ donations from brain-dead patients has been branded forbidden by their religious leaders. But thanks to a 1990 Fatwa by Imam Khomeini, allowing such transplants, Iran has witnessed a significant development, with many Iranian patients being saved every year,” Katayoun Najafzadeh said.
Reviewing a history of such activities, Najafzadeh said the first cornea transplant in Iran took place in 1936 by Dr. Shams, while the first such surgery for a kidney patient was performed in the city of Shiraz in 1960. Ever since, similar kidney transplants have been carried out every now and then, with donations either from living volunteers or brain-dead people. Then it was Dr. Iraj Fazel who launched an official consistent program of kidney transplants, something which has well continued and been extended in the country to date.
“In 1990, Dr. Fazel asked Imam Khomeini for his scholarly opinion on whether organ donations from brain-dead patients could be legalized. The go-ahead by the leader opened a new chapter in the country’s transplant field. And ever since, Dr. Fazel has been named Iran’s “Father of Organ Transplants,” Najafzadeh added.
The first such transplants for heart and liver patients were performed in 1994, while the first lung transplant took place in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Hospital in 1996. Later, the city’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital opened its lung transplant section. The two hospitals are currently the sole active lung transplant centers in Iran, according to Dr. Najafzadeh.
The managing director of the association noted that the transplant practice has seen a gradual evolution in Iran. “Ten years ago, the country’s ranking on the global list was 42nd, while it’s now standing at 31st. “Meanwhile, the statistics of consent among Iranian families for organ donations has risen from around 5-10 percent in a decade ago to an average enormous 70 percent now,” she told Persia Digest.
Najafzadeh asserted that the country stands as the world’s 12th nation when it comes to kidney transplants from living donors. The ranking for heart, lung, pancreas and kidney donations from brain-dead people is now 32nd. Najafzadeh says “thanks to efforts by medical teams in Shiraz and other centers in Tehran, the rate for liver transplants has been on the rise. The figures for donations from living donors and brain-dead volunteers are 25% and 16%, respectively.”
The total number of annual kidney transplants nationwide has now reached 2,500. The figures for liver, heart and lung transplants are 700, 100 and 16, respectively. Najafzadeh believes that the high rate for kidney transplants is explained by the fact that kidney donations can be made by living donors and brain-dead people both.
She, however, noted that kidneys should preferably be donated by healthy people related in blood, because the genetic adaptability helps lengthen the lifetime of the transplanted organ.
During the past eight decades, Iran has been the Middle East’s top nation in medical advancement, including surgery breakthroughs. The 1981-1989 Iraq-Iran War imposed by former dictator Saddam Hussein and the devastating consequences have even served as a blessing in disguise for Iranian physicians, who have taken a successful steady path toward medical development, performing all at home the most complicated and subtlest surgeries in such fields as internal medicine, neurology, facial and skin treatment, as well as orthopedics.