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Organ transplants

Organ Transplants

 When one of the organs fails due to illness or suffers an injury, an organ transplant is a life saving medical response, which aims to restore the normal functioning of the whole organism. The organ can come from a live person, who voluntarily offers to be a donor, from a brain dead person, who has no chance of recovery (live organ transplants) or from a recently deceased person, whose family gives a written consent of the donation.

Transplantable organs include:

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  • Pancreas
  • Lung
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Intestine
  • Heart
  • Cornea     

Organ transplants are a lengthy and complex procedure, which always involves the same crucial steps:

  1. The first step is to match the donor organ to the recipient. This is performed to reduce the risk of transplant rejection, which occurs when the patient’s immune systems attacks the foreign donor organ.
  2. Then the donated organ is removed, stored in a special saline liquid and transported to the site of the operation.
  3. The organ is surgically implanted into the recipient (blood vessels and ducts are reconnected).
  4. Additionally, organ transplant requires the patients to take immunosuppressant medicine, often for the rest of their life to help the body accept the new organ.

The Most Common Medical Conditions Behind Organ Transplants

 Below you will find a list of the organs and their diseases that often make organ transplants a medical necessity.

 

Organ   

Common Diseases Leading To Transplant

Heart

Coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital /   valvular heart disease, hypertensive heart disease

Lung     

Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, COPD, Cystic   fibrosis, Emphysema, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, primary pulmonary   hypertension

Kidney

Polycystic kidneys, nephrosclerosis, chronic   pyelonephritis, glomerulonephritis, diabetes mellitus, kidney stones, renal   cell carcinoma, Wilms’ tumor

Pancreas

Diabetes mellitus type I

Liver

Primary sclerosing cholangitis, acute hepatic   necrosis, cirrhosis, metabolic diseases, portal hypertension, hepatitis   (viral, autoimmune, idiopapathic), liver tumors, biliary atresia

Intestine

Short gut syndrome, malabsorptive bowel problems

Organ transplant is the last resort for end-stage organ failure. This implies that physicians have to exhaust all possibilities to treat organ conditions before recommending organ transplants.

As organ transplants are very hard to carry out, there are other treatments for certain diseases, which help replace the functions of failing organs. They involve devices which require surgical implanting such as:

  • Artificial hearts – also known as “bridge-to-transplant”, are composed of plastic, polyester and aluminum. They perform similar actions of the heart and are powered by external energy sources which regulates the pump
  • LVADS – a mechanical pump device which helps maintaining the pumping ability of the heart
  • ICDs – made for people who suffer from arrhythmias, this devices deliver life-saving shocks when dangerous rhythm in the heart is detected
  • Pacemakers – helps the heart beat regularly
  • Hemodialysis - a common method to treat kidney failure, in which blood passes through a machine to remove excess fluid and wastes.
  • Peritoneal dialysis – another way to remove wastes from the abdomen walls.

Policies for organ transplants require cooperative work among organizations, transplant centers, and family members. Two basic components of organ allocation are:

  • Matching organs – controlled by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which links all donor organs with all organ transplant patients.
  • Waiting List – it is necessary because donor organs are in shortage and every candidate is a unique case.

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Live Organ Transplant

A live organ transplant is feasible in case of kidney and liver transplants, and it shows much higher success rates than deceased donor transplants.  The risk of long-term health damage for live donors who voluntarily offered their organ to a relative or friend is very low. It is possible to live with one kidney as a healthy organ is able to take over the role of two, and liver can also regenerate wonderfully.

In live donor transplants the donor is usually a family member or a matching friend.

Obviously the costs of a live donor transplant are higher as two operations are performed one after the other. The first step is to develop a financial strategy where surgery costs and insurance benefits are laid on the table. Social workers and financial coordinators should help to explore new sources.

Most patients combine possibilities and finance the transplant procedure working with community fund-raising groups.