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Organ Transplant

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Learning About Transplants


What if you're not a good candidate for an organ transplant?

You may not be a good candidate if you have an active infection, unstable heart disease, or another serious medical problem. Also, you will not be considered for organ transplant if you have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

If you are told that you are not a good candidate for organ transplant, find out if there are other treatments for your condition. Many people can live for years with serious health conditions.

The goal of your care may shift to maintaining your comfort. Talk to your loved ones about the type of care you would like to receive. Discuss their expectations as well as your wishes, care needs, and finances and the needs of your family. Your choices may change as your illness changes.

How successful are transplants?

Organ transplant success depends on:

  • Which organ is transplanted.
  • How many organs are transplanted. For example, you could have a heart transplant or a heart and lung transplant.
  • The disease that has caused your organ to fail.
  • The age of the donor organ. In general, the younger the organ donor, the healthier the tissue. But recent research is challenging this thought. It may be that some older organs work just as well as younger organs.
  • The length of time that the donor organ is out of the donor's body. The more quickly an organ is transplanted after it is removed from the donor, the more likely that the transplant will be successful.
  • How well the organ was preserved just before transplantation. The donor organ must be properly preserved while it is being transferred, especially if it was transferred from a long distance.

Success rates usually state how many people who receive the transplant are living 5 years after the transplant.1

  • Kidney: About 8 or 9 people out of 10 (82% to 91%)
  • Liver: About 7 or 8 people out of 10 (74% to 79%)
  • Lung: About 5 people out of 10 (54%)
  • Pancreas: About 8 or 9 people out of 10 (85% to 89%)
  • Heart: About 7 people out of 10 (75%)
  • Intestine: About 6 people out of 10 (58%)

Organ rejection is possible. When a new organ is placed into your body, your immune system sees it as foreign and tries to destroy it. Antirejection medicines can help prevent your immune system from attacking the donor organ.

You may worry about organ rejection or that your surgery will not be successful for another reason. These thoughts are normal. Many people write an advance directive and choose a health care agent when they are waiting for a transplant.

Writing an Advance Directive
Choosing a Health Care Agent

How can you get ready?

While you are waiting for your organ transplant, you will be given a pager or cell phone so the transplant center can contact you to tell you an organ is available. You may also wish to give the transplant center several numbers where you can be reached and the name and number of a few people who will always know how to reach you.

Arrange in advance for someone to go with you to the transplant center. This person can support you, listen to your doctor, and help you remember important instructions. This person can also report any change in behaviors or symptoms that you may have either before or shortly after the transplant.

Have your suitcase packed with the things you need to take with you to the transplant center. Your support person should also have a bag packed and ready to go.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 03, 2012
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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