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Organ Transplant

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Learning About Transplants

How do you get on the waiting list?

Receiving a donor organ is a big responsibility. To get on the waiting list, you'll have to be committed to taking good care of yourself. The best way to do this is to take medicines as prescribed, get regular blood tests, and make any necessary lifestyle changes to stay healthy.

To get on the waiting list, you will need to:

  • Obtain a referral from your doctor.
  • Call the transplant center where you choose to have your transplant. To locate a transplant center near you, ask your doctor or contact the United Network for Organ Sharing by going online at or calling 1-888-894-6361.
  • Schedule an appointment for an evaluation at the transplant center to find out if you are a good candidate for a transplant. Your transplant center can do all of the required tests, or your doctor can order the tests and send the results to the center.

During your evaluation, learn as much as you can about the transplant center. Find out whether the center will accept your insurance, what your options are if you don't have insurance, and whether support groups are available.

The transplant center will notify you within 2 weeks of your evaluation to let you know whether you have been placed on the waiting list. If you have questions about your list status, contact the transplant center where you were evaluated.

It may be days, months, or even years before you receive a new organ. When an organ is found, your transplant team will consider whether the donor is a good match for you, the status of your current health, and how long you've been on the waiting list. Your team will also consider the location of the donated organ, because it must be transplanted quickly to remain in working order.

Thinking about and waiting for a transplant can affect you emotionally. You may find it helpful to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed mental health counselor about your transplant.

What tests will you need before your transplant?

Tests that are done for all organ transplant candidates include:

  • A cross-match for transplant. This blood test shows whether your body will reject the donor organ immediately. It will mix a donor's blood with your blood to see whether your antibodies attack the antigens of the donor. If they attack, you are not a good match with the donor.
  • Antibody screen. A panel-reactive antibody (PRA) test measures whether you have antibodies against a broad range of people. If you do, it means you are at higher risk of having rejection, even if the cross-match shows that you and the donor are a good match.
  • Blood type. This blood test shows which type of blood you have. Your blood type should be compatible with the organ donor's blood type. But sometimes it's possible to transplant an organ from a donor with a different blood type.
  • Tissue type. This blood test shows the genetic makeup of your body's cells. We inherit three different kinds of genetic markers from our mothers and three from our fathers. The more of these markers you share with the organ donor, the more likely it is that your body will accept the donor organ.
  • A mental health assessment. This test identifies any psychological issues that may prevent you from receiving and caring for your new organ. A living donor is also required to have this test before donating an organ.

The results of these medical tests will be used to match you with an organ donor. The more matches you have, the more likely your body will accept the new organ.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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