Diagnostics

Organ Donation and Transplantation

What is transplantation?

Transplantation is a surgical procedure where organs or tissues are taken from one person (the donor) and placed into another person (the recipient).

Organ transplant is a crucial and last option recommended when organ failure reaches a critical stage or during emergencies. In such critical cases, a healthy organ or organs from a living or deceased person are transplanted into the recipient with organ failure, giving them a renewed chance of survival.

Donation and transplantation of organs and tissues are life-saving procedures and can enhance the recipient’s quality of life. For instance, transplanting the clear tissue that covers the eye (cornea) might not be essential for survival, but it can restore vision and improve the recipient’s life.

Who performs transplantation surgery?

In India, various types of organ transplants are performed, including kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, and more. Transplant procedures are typically conducted in specialized transplant centers or hospitals with experienced medical teams. The transplant services team consists of a skilled and diverse group of experts, such as:

  • Specialized surgeons trained in organ transplantation
  • General Physicians
  • Radiologists and medical imaging technologists
  • Nurses
  • Infectious disease experts
  • Physical therapists
  • Mental health professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors
  • Social workers
  • Nutritionists and dietitians

What are the types of organ donation?

There are two main types of organ donation for transplantation: living donor transplant and deceased donor transplant.

Living Donor Transplants:  Living donor transplants involve organs or tissues being donated by healthy individuals. Common living donor transplants in India include kidney and liver transplants. Living donors can be family members, close friends, or unrelated donors (individuals who willingly and selflessly donate the organ to someone they do not have a personal or familial connection with)

Deceased Donor Transplants: Deceased donor transplants occur when organs are retrieved from individuals who have recently passed away, but their organs are still healthy for transplantation. In India, deceased donor organs are allocated based on the national or regional organ-sharing network.

What organs and tissues can be transplanted?

The following are organs and tissues that can be transplanted:

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Lung
  • Intestine
  • Corneas
  • Skin
  • Bone
  • Bone marrow
  • Heart valves
  • Connective tissue
  • Vascularized composite allografts [type of transplant that involves transplanting multiple tissues, such as skin, muscle, bone, nerves, and blood vessels, as a functional unit from one person (the donor) to another person (the recipient)

How is a transplant procedure performed?

Preprocedural Instructions

Before undergoing an organ transplant, the patient will undergo a comprehensive medical examination to address any existing medical conditions, such as kidney or heart disease.

The transplant team will carefully assess the health and medical history to determine if the patient meets the criteria for organ transplantation. Each type of organ transplant has specific guidelines to identify the most suitable candidates who can effectively manage the process.

The patient will be added to the national waiting list if the transplant team deems the patient a suitable candidate. The position on the list is determined by various factors, depending on the type of transplant the patient needs.

Once on the waiting list, the search for a compatible donor begins. Donors can vary depending on the specific transplant, and they include:

  • A living-related donor is a family member like a parent, sibling, or child.
  • A living unrelated donor is someone not related to the patient, such as a friend or spouse.
  • A deceased donor is someone who has recently passed away. Organs like the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and pancreas can be recovered from a deceased donor.


Recipients may be advised to make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy diet, to prepare for the procedure.

Existing medications may need to be adjusted or changed to optimize the recipient’s health for the surgery.

The details of the transplant surgery, including the organ being transplanted, and the associated medical risks and benefits are explained to the patient and family members by the transplant surgery team. Written consent is then signed by the patient or their family member after they have been provided with information about the surgery.

Procedure Details

The transplant procedure may vary depending on the type of organ being transplanted.

In the case of deceased donor transplants, the donor organ is retrieved from a suitable donor, ensuring its preservation and transportation to the recipient’s location.

The recipient undergoes surgery to replace the damaged or failed organ with the healthy donor organ.

Post-Transplant Care

After the transplant, the recipient is closely monitored in the intensive care unit (ICU) to ensure the organ’s proper functioning.

After the transplant procedure, the recipient receives post-surgery care instructions to promote healing and prevent complications. These may include:

  • Recipients need to take immunosuppressive medications to prevent organ rejection.
  • Regular follow-up visits with the transplant team are essential for monitoring progress and managing any issues that may arise.
  • Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is crucial for successful recovery.
  • Recipients need to take precautions to avoid infections, including frequent handwashing and avoiding crowded places.

What are the risks associated with transplant procedures?

Organ transplant surgery comes with certain risks, including:

  • Anesthesia-related complications
  • Possible bleeding or other complications during the surgical procedure.
  • Post-surgical complications, such as the risk of infection at the surgical site.
  • A heightened vulnerability to infections and other illnesses due to the use of anti-rejection medications and other transplant-related drugs.
  • The possibility of organ rejection, wherein the recipient’s immune system may attack and damage the transplanted organ.
  • The risk of organ failure is when the new organ may not function as expected or survive in the recipient’s body.


Organ transplant surgeries have significant benefits for most recipients. Without a transplant, many people with organ failure might die or have shorter lives. However, these surgeries are risky, especially because those who need them are often very sick. Despite the risks, the potential to save lives makes organ transplants essential for those in need.

References

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