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Organ Transplantation: Eligibility, Cost & General Information

  • Synopsis: Published: 2015-05-04 - Information regarding human organ transplants including eligibility, cost, preparing for an organ transplant of liver, lungs, kidney, heart and small intestine. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World at Disabled World.
Organ Transplantation

Organ transplantation is defined as the moving of an organ from one body to another or from a donor site to another location on the person's own body, to replace the recipient's damaged or absent organ. Organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, and thymus. Organs and/or tissues that are transplanted within the same person's body are called autografts. Transplants that are recently performed between two subjects of the same species are called allografts. Allografts can either be from a living or cadaveric source.

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Quote: "A person is most likely not a good candidate if they have heart disease that is not under control, an infection, an alcohol or drug issue, or another form of serious health issue."

An organ transplant replaces a failing organ with a healthy one from someone else. End-stage organ failure is the most common diagnosis for people waiting for an organ transplant. Some different diseases may lead to end-stage organ failure. Among the diseases that can lead to organ failure are:

  • Cirrhosis
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • Hypertension
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Short gut syndrome
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Organs that are most often transplanted include liver, lungs, kidney, heart and small intestine. More than one organ may be transplanted at one time, such as a heart-lung transplant.

Eligibility for a Transplant

Not every person is a good candidate for an organ transplant. A doctor or a transplant center will perform tests to find out if a person is a good candidate. A person is most likely not a good candidate if they have heart disease that is not under control, an infection, an alcohol or drug issue, or another form of serious health issue. If a person's tests show them to be a good candidate for organ transplantation, they are placed on a waiting list.

Transplants are more successful now than ever before. The success of an organ transplant depends upon which organ is transplanted, the disease that caused the person's organ to fail, as well as how many organs are transplanted.

Preparing for an Organ Transplant

A person preparing for an organ transplant will need to have tissue and blood tests performed, ones that will be used to match the person with a potential donor. The reason why the tests are needed is because a person's immune system might perceive a new organ as, 'foreign,' and reject it. The more matches a person has with the donor, the more likely their body is to accept the donor organ.

A person pursuing an organ transplant must also take good care of their health. They must continue to take their medications as they are prescribed and receive regular blood tests. It is important for the person to follow their doctor's directions for exercising and eating right. The person might also wish to communicate with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed mental health counselor about their transplant.

One of the best ways to learn more about what happens is to communicate with a person who has already had an organ transplant. The person's transplant center or a doctor can provide them with the name of someone who is willing to share their experiences with the person. A person might have to wait for days, months, or even years for their transplant. Remain patient and ask the doctor what can be done while they wait.

Transplantation Costs

Transplantation involves costs before, during and after the actual transplant surgery. The costs include laboratory testing, organ procurement, transplant surgeons and additional operating room personnel. The costs include hospital stays, transportation to and from the transplant hospital for surgery and checkups, rehabilitation - to include physical or occupational therapy, medications including immunosuppressive or anti-rejection medications that can cost up to $2,500 a month. The average cost of transplantation in the year 2011 ranged from $262,000 for a single kidney to more than $1,148,000 for a heart-lung transplant.

After the Transplant

After receiving a transplant, it is important for the person to take the best care of themselves and their transplanted organ as possible. Issues such as nutrition, medication and remaining healthy have to become the person's new focus. The person will transition from waiting for a donor organ to learning how to manage medications and their side-effects as a portion of their daily life. What follows are some different things the recipient needs to do.

Become a Partner in Your Follow-up Care: Even years after the surgery, doctors will continue to monitor the health status of both the person's transplanted organ and the rest of their body. Laboratory tests are a regular part of a transplant recipient's life. Understanding the purposes of the tests might make it easier to follow specific instructions and receive results that are accurate. Communication between the organ recipient and their transplant team about ongoing monitoring, how much can be done at the person's home, as well as what requires visits to the transplant center or other locations is necessary.

Exercise: The majority of people are weak following any surgery. Transplant recipients need to recover not only from the operation, but the illness or injury that caused the need for them to receive a transplant. Due to this, exercise and muscle strain should be limited when the person first returns home. Communicate with a doctor about what to expect for physical reconditioning and any limitations on activities. After the person begins to feel better, regular exercise will help them to regain their strength. The person may very well feel tired at first and require them to take rest breaks during exercise. Over time, the person can increase the amount and type of physical activities they enjoy.

Learn What to Expect from Anti-Rejection Medications: Immunosuppressant medications that stop a person's body from rejecting the transplanted organ are an important part of life following transplant surgery. Generally, the suppressed immune system may be slower to defend against germs. Transplant recipients might be somewhat more vulnerable to infections and could find it harder to recover from certain illnesses and infections. This is particularly true for the first six months following surgery, yet will remain an ongoing concern. The person who received another organ can protect their health by following good prevention practices, avoiding illness and injury, as well as by seeking treatment early when an illness does occur.

Remaining Healthy

Healthy lifestyle options are excellent choices for organ recipients, as they are for anyone. Following a low-fat diet, exercising on a regular basis, as well as avoiding smoking promote the health of the recipient's new organ and the rest of their body. The recipient's doctor and transplant center dietitian can assist with developing a plan for a healthy diet and appropriate exercise during the process of healing and during transition to a healthy life as a whole. Eating well can include the following:

  • Eat as little fat and oil as possible
  • Use herbs and spices to add flavor instead of salt
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit
  • Eat a minimum amount of salt, snacks and processed foods
  • Read food labels so you can be smart when shopping for food
  • Become more aware of serving sizes that are listed on food labels
  • Try consuming foods that are high-fiber such as raw vegetables and fruit
  • Watch your intake of food and drink lots of water, unless you are told to limit fluids
  • Eat foods that are high in protein such as poultry, fish, meat, eggs, unsalted nuts and beans
  • Add calcium to your diet by eating calcium-rich foods such as low-fat dairy products and green, leafy vegetables or calcium supplements

Know Your Pharmacist

Transplant recipients commonly need to take an array of medications. Some of the medications will be new and prescribed following transplant surgery. Some might be continued from before transplant surgery. Certain medications might be taken several times each day, while others are taken only on specific days. Transplant team doctors may have to change medications, or adjust dosages every few days or weeks to find the best combination for maximum benefit and minimum side-effects. Managing medications following transplant surgery can be both complex and confusing to an organ recipient.

Choosing a good pharmacy and getting to know a pharmacist can help a transplant recipient to understand their medications and manage their medication schedule. Pharmacists can help to explain effects and side-effects of medications. At times, they can recommend tools such as organizers and timers to help the person keep track of medications.

A social worker at the transplant center should have the ability to provide the organ recipient with a list of pharmacies to choose from. Pharmacy services and prices differ. If the transplant recipient is not limited to specific companies by their insurance coverage, it is important for the person to shop around for lower prices and features such as refill reminders, home delivery services, or the ability to communicate with a pharmacist directly by phone or in person.

Awareness: Organ Transplant & Donation Awareness

Green awareness ribbonThe green awareness ribbon is the symbol for organ transplant and organ donation awareness. National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was first established in 2003. Every day in April, people across the U.S. make a special effort to celebrate the tremendous generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donors and to encourage more people to follow their example.

Other Awareness ribbon colors

Other awareness dates

Learn More About Human Organ Transplantation

Human organ transplantation

The Gift of a Lifetime: Organ Donation in America

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network

Facts: Transplantable Organs and Tissues


  • Heart (deceased-donor only)
  • Heart/Lung (deceased-donor and domino transplant)
  • Lung (deceased-donor and living-related lung transplantation)


  • Intestine (deceased-donor and living-donor)
  • Kidney (deceased-donor and living-donor)
  • Liver (deceased-donor and living-donor)
  • Pancreas (deceased-donor only)
  • Stomach (deceased-donor only)
  • Testis

Tissues, cells and fluids

  • Blood transfusion/Blood Parts Transfusion (living-donor and autograft)
  • Blood Vessels (autograft and deceased-donor)
  • Bone (deceased-donor and living-donor)
  • Bone marrow/Adult stem cell (living-donor and autograft)
  • Cornea (deceased-donor only)
  • Hand (deceased-donor only)
  • Heart Valve (deceased-donor, living-donor and xenograft (porcine/bovine))
  • Islets of Langerhans (pancreas islet cells) (deceased-donor and living-donor)
  • Skin, including face replant (autograft) and face transplant (extremely rare)

Statistics: Organ Transplant

  • In addition to the citizens waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. and other developed nations, there are long waiting lists in the rest of the world. More than 2 million people need organ transplants in China, 50,000 waiting in Latin America (90% of which are waiting for kidneys), as well as thousands more in the less documented continent of Africa.
  • According to the Council of Europe, Spain through the Spanish Transplant Organization shows the highest worldwide rate of 35.1 donors per million population in 2005 and 33.8 in 2006. In 2011, it was 35.3.

Related Information:

  1. Transplant Criteria for Liver Cancer Patients - Wiley-Blackwell - (2010-03-05)
  2. New Way to Stop Autoimmune Diseases and Transplant Rejection - Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology - (2009-01-22)
  3. Bone Marrow Transplantation from Mismatched Donors - Weizmann Institute - (2009-12-07)

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