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Organ Transplant

Organ transplantation is the process of surgically transferring a donated organ to someone diagnosed with organ failure. Many diseases can lead to organ failure, including heart disease, diabetes , hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, and cirrhosis.Injury and birth defects may also cause organ failure.

Over View

Organ transplantation is one of the great advances in modern medicine. Unfortunately, the need for organ donors is much greater than the number of people who actually donate.

What organs and tissues can be transplanted?

Organs and tissues that can be transplanted include:

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Lung
  • Intestine
  • Cornea
  • Middle ear
  • Skin
  • Bone
  • Bone marrow
  • Heart valves
  • Connective tissue
  • Vascularized composite allografts (transplant of several structures that may include skin, bone, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue)

Who can be an organ donor?

People of all ages should consider themselves potential donors. When a person dies, he or she is evaluated for donor suitability based on their medical history and age. The Organ Procurement Agency determines medical suitability for donation.

How can I become an organ donor?

Individuals who wish to be organ donors should complete the following steps:

  • You might join a donor registry. A registry is more than just an expression of interest in becoming a donor. It is a way to legally give consent for the anatomical gift of organs, tissue, and eyes. Each time you go to your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), you will be asked, "do you want to make an anatomical gift?" All you have to do is say "Yes." You can also join the registry at any time by filling out a "Document of Gift" form from the BMV.
  • Sign and carry an organ donor card.
  • Let your family members and loved ones know your desire to be a donor.
  • You might also want to tell your family healthcare provider, lawyer, and religious leader that you would like to be a donor.

By becoming an organ donor, does this mean that I wouldn't be eligible to receive the best medical care possible?

Not at all, your decision to donate does not affect the quality of the medical care you will receive.

Are there any costs to the organ donor's family for donation?

There is no cost to the donor's family or estate for the donation of organs, tissue, or eyes. Funeral costs remain the responsibility of the family.

Will organ donation disfigure the body?

The recovery of organs, tissue, and eyes is a surgical procedure performed by trained medical professionals. Generally, the family may still have a traditional funeral service

If I need an organ or tissue transplant, what do I need to do?

If you need a transplant, you need to get on the national waiting list. To get on the list, you need to visit a transplant hospital.

The transplant hospital's doctors will examine you and decide if you are a good transplant candidate.

If the hospital's transplant team determines that you are a good transplant candidate, they will add you to the national waiting list.However, be sure to check each transplant hospital's guidelines about who will be the primary care provider.

Next, you wait. There's no way to know how long you will wait to receive a donor organ. Your name will be added to the pool of names. When an organ becomes available, all the patients in the pool are assessed to determine compatibility.

What organization actually manages the distribution of organs? What is the process to receive an organ or tissue?

When an organ becomes available, the local organ procurement organization sends medical and genetic information to NOTTO (National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization).NOTTO then generates a list of potential recipients, based on such factors as:

  • Blood type
  • Tissue type
  • Organ size
  • Medical urgency of the patient's illness
  • Time already spent on the waiting list
  • Geographical distance between the donor and the recipient

The organ is offered first to the transplant center with the candidate who is the best match. The transplant team decides if it will accept or refuse the organ based on established medical criteria and other factors, including staff and patient availability and organ transportation.

If the transplant center refuses the organ, the transplant center of the next patient on the list is contacted and the process continues until the organ is placed. Organs are distributed locally first; if no match is found, they are offered regionally and then nationally.

What's involved with becoming a living organ donor?

A living donation, such as the donation of one healthy kidney or a segment of a healthy liver from a living human being to another, is arranged though the individual transplant centers according to criteria they have in place. An Independent Donor Advocate will represent the interests and well-being of the potential living donor.


What organs can I donate?

Advances in transplant medicine mean more patients can now be saved, or their quality of life improved. Transplants are regularly carried out on the kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and small bowel. Also, tissue such as corneas and heart valves can be donated.

Patients of all ages, including newborn babies, require donation for many different reasons including illness and accident. For example, organs such as lungs and the heart can be used for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis or heart disease. Tissue donation can be used to help patients see again or relieve pain.

The many ways which organ donation can help aren't always obvious - another reason why it is important to register because we all have the potential to help someone in need of an organ or tissue.

When you sign the NHS Donor Register, you can chose which organs you wish to donate. Below is a list of organs which can be donated and how they can are used.


For conditions such as heart disease, sometimes medication or conventional operations no longer work. A transplant is sometimes the only option.


Many patients needing a transplant have chronic infection of the lungs from either cystic fibrosis or other conditions such as bronchiectasis.


When kidneys fail, people suffer tiredness, swelling, breathlessness, anaemia, anxiety and nausea. A kidney transplant frees patients from the burden of dialysis.


Transplantation is usually done either to treat the symptoms of a disease such as primary biliary cirrhosis, or to save the life of a patient dying from liver failure.


A pancreas transplant is the only treatment which restores insulin independence for people with Type 1 diabetes, and can prevent, or slow down, diabetic complications like blindness and kidney failure.


Small bowel transplantation is a treatment for both adults and children with intestinal failure – helping avoid life-threatening infections and other complications.


Tissue transplantation offers huge benefits to many people.It can relieve pain, improve sight or enable recipients to return to work and get on with living a normal life. Heart valves can save the lives of patients, including young children born with malformed hearts, or suffering from diseased or damaged valves. Donation can also help patients suffering from severe eye disease or injury. When a donor consents to donating their corneas, the eyes are removed to preserve the integrity of the corneas until they are ready for transplantation. Additionally, other parts of the eye such as the sclera can also be used for transplantation.


It is possible to be a living donor. The most common type is kidney donation, when one kidney is removed from a healthy individual and transplanted into a relative or friend. In recent years, it has also become possible for people to donate part of their liver.

Living donation is obviously a very major decision, and every person who comes forward undergoes a rigorous assessment. All live donors and recipients are reviewed by an independent assessor who is responsible for making sure there's no pressure or coercion involved, and that all parties understand the risk of complications.

The Organ Donor Register is only for those who wish to donate after death. To be a living donor, you must contact a transplant centre directly.


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