Organ Transplant

Table of Contents


Organ transplants are life-saving surgeries that happen all over the world.

Doctors can replace damaged organs with healthy, donated ones. Donors agree to participate in this procedure to help save someone else’s life.

Types of Organ Transplants

An organ transplant replaces a damaged organ with a donor’s healthy organ. The two ways a donation becomes available are through a living donor or the body of one who recently died.

  • Living Donor: when someone who is still living gives up all or part of an organ.
  • Deceased Donor: Doctors will remove any viable organs once a person has been declared dead. These are then transported to the recipient and surgically placed.
    • Becoming an After-Life Donor: The process of becoming a donor is easy. Sign up by registering through your state. Your information goes into a database matching donors to recipients.

Reasons for an Organ Transplant

When vital organs fail, there is a need for a transplant. There are many reasons someone might need this type of surgery.

  • Damage occurring from a medical condition can cause malfunctions. Examples include infections (i.e., hepatitis) and diseases (i.e., diabetes).
  • Some patients have genetic conditions (like polycystic kidney disease or a heart condition).
  • An accident can cause vital organs to stop working correctly. Sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents are two causes of organ damage.

Which Organs Can Be Transplanted?

For most of history, having a failing vital organ was fatal. Thanks to advances in medical opportunities, this is no longer true.

In 1954, patient Ronald Herrick donated a kidney to his twin brother, Richard. This surgery was both the first living donation and successful organ transplantation.

Since then, tens of thousands of similar procedures have occurred every year. People gain a second chance at living a fulfilled life.

Organs that can be transplanted include:

  • Heart
  • Intestines
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Pancreas
  • VCA (vascularized composite allografts) like the face, hands, or uterus

There are also dual transplants, with two organs replaced in the same surgery:

  • Heart-Lung Transplant
  • Kidney-Pancreas Transplant

Transplant Process

When a vital organ isn’t working correctly, the quality of life is compromised. Doctors consider each patient case by case. Then they can determine the best steps for improving and prolonging life.

Each transplant program has its strict process for becoming an organ recipient. They treat each case with the same criteria to ensure a fair system for everyone needing a healthy organ.

The steps involved in organ transplants include:

  • Get on a waiting list
  • Provide relevant information to the program
  • Ask as many questions as you can think of
  • Seek financial help from organizations
  • Be patient – waiting for a donor takes time
  • Have and then recover from surgery
  • Take the necessary medications to prevent the body from rejecting the new organ

Statistics About Organ Transplants

The statistics about organ transplants show the pressing need for donor participants. Here are some of the facts about this situation:

  • Today, there are nearly 106,000 on the transplant waiting list.
  • Over 2,000 children need new organs.
  • The list includes men, women, and children of all ages.
  • The transplant list grows by one person every nine minutes.
  • Every day, 17 people will lose their lives while waiting for a viable organ.
  • Becoming a donor sets up the opportunity to help many people. Each registered donor can potentially save eight lives. Seventy-five others can have improved quality of life.
  • In 2021, more than 40,000 transplants were completed.


Many medications are prescribed following a serious surgery like an organ transplant. A patient’s immune system will consider the new body part foreign post-transplant.

Anti-rejection medications will suppress that response. Then, the body can accept the new organ.

Here are some of the choices a doctor has when treating postoperative patients:

  1. Medical News Today. Everything You Need to Know About Organ Transplants. July 2, 2019. Available at
  2. HRSA Donate Organs While Alive. April 2021. Available at:
  3. HRSA Organ Sign up to Be an Organ Donor. 2022. Available at:
  4. UNOS. Frequently Asked Questions. 2022. Available at:
  5. HRSA Organ Donation Statistics. March 2022. Available at:
  6. UNOS. History: Transplant Living. 2022. Available at:
  7. UNOS. Post-transplant Medications. 2022. Available at:
  8. Azathioprine. January 27, 2022. Available at:
  9. Belatacept. January 31, 2022. Available at:
  10. Cyclosporine. July 15, 2021. Available at:
  11. Daclizumab. March 20, 2022. Available at:
  12. Mycophenolic Acid. January 29, 2021. Available at:
  13. Prednisone. May 23, 2022. Available at:
  14. Sirolimus. February 7, 2022. Available at:
  15. Tacrolimus. August 9, 2021. Available at:

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