What is an organ transplant?
An organ transplant replaces a failing organ with a healthy organ from another person. Organs most often transplanted are:
Who can get a transplant?
Not everyone is a good candidate for an organ transplant. Your doctor or a transplant center will do tests to see if you are. You probably are not a good candidate if you have an infection, heart disease that is not under control, a drug or alcohol problem, or another serious health problem.
If your tests show you are a good candidate, you are put on a waiting list.
How successful are organ transplants?
Transplants are more successful today than ever before. 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.
How do you prepare for an organ transplant?
First, you'll need to have blood and tissue tests done that will be used to match you with a donor. This is because your immune system may see the new organ as foreign and reject it. A match with both blood type and some antibodies in the blood is important.
You'll also need to take care of your health. Continue to take your medicines as prescribed and get regular blood tests. Follow your doctor's directions for eating and exercising. You also may want to talk with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed mental health counselor about your transplant.
To learn more about what happens, talk to someone who has had a transplant. Your transplant center or doctor can give you the name of someone who is willing to share his or her experience with you.
You may have to wait days, months, or years for your transplant. Be patient, and ask your doctor what you can do while you're waiting.
What can you expect afterward?
After a transplant, many people say they feel better than they have in years. What you can and can't do will depend on the type of transplant you had, other health problems you have, and how your body reacts to the new organ.
You will have to take daily medicines to prevent your immune system from rejecting the new organ. You will need less of these medicines as time goes by. Because these medicines weaken your immune system, you may have to stay away from large crowds for a while and stay away from people who have infections.
You will also have regular checkups and blood tests to see how well your new organ is working.
Who can be an organ donor?
Most people can be organ donors. If you are interested in donating an organ, contact the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) at 1-888-894-6361 or go online at www.unos.org to get more information and to locate the nearest transplant center.
Many people choose to donate an organ upon their death. But a person can donate certain organs while he or she is still living. These people are called "living donors."