Organ transplant is the last suggested procedure in cases of organ failure, and is undertaken only in critical cases and emergency medical situations. In such situations, at the critical end of organ failure, a healthy organ/organs for transplant from a person living or deceased is transplanted into the organ transplant recipient, offering them a new chance of survival.
Organ transplant donation helps people suffering from chronic illnesses to live a more fulfilled life and a healthier one up to a normal lifespan. Organ transplantation may be required in cases of genetic organ defects such as congenital heart defects or polycystic kidney disease, and in such cases, medication can fall short of making a difference in lifestyle or lifespan of the patient.
Chronic or acquired conditions such as diabetes or physical injuries can also be reasons for requirement of an organ transplant surgery. Organs for transplant include the lungs, heart, pancreas, kidneys, liver and intestine, and transplants for the face and body are also being undertaken more recently. Of these, kidney transplants are usually undertaken as the most common form of organ transplant and see a high organ transplant success rate.
While the organ transplant process is becoming more common over the years with senior citizens being the most common demographic undergoing organ transplantation in developed countries such as the USA, the organ transplant surgery procedure remains a complex one, involving many delicate steps, and requiring a highly skilled team of surgical experts. The criteria for organ transplant include a battery of tests to determine the kind of donor organ to best fit the recipient, and prevent organ transplant rejection. Donor matching is a major part of the organ transplant process, and in cases of kidney transplant, very often a living family member with the same blood type is the donor of the organ to reduce chances or organ transplant rejection.
Once it is determined by doctors that a patient is due to undergo the organ transplant process, they are then placed on an organ transplant waiting list to await a donor organ. The requirements for organ transplant require critical organ failure in the recipient patient, and once they are placed on the organ transplant list, the health of the patient is monitored at regular intervals to determine the feasibility of the organ transplant process once an organ becomes available. Organ matching is a critical part of the organ transplant process where age, organ transplant history, blood type matching and several such criteria for Organ Transplants are considered at the time of putting the patient on an organ transplant waiting list, as well as the time for organ transplant surgery nears. Considering the severity of conditions requiring organ transplant, the organ transplant guidelines surrounding the entire process are strict and continually monitored.
An organ transplant is done when a critical organ in the body is functioning very poorly, and determined to ultimately fail and cause mortality. To prevent the death of a patient whose organ failure is already determined, doctors will suggest organ transplantation as an end state measure, after determining suitability of such a procedure on the patient. Some of the chronic conditions that require an organ transplant due to terminal organ failure include chronic kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, acute diabetes, congenital heart disease (CHD). Liver failure due to cirrhosis, and accidents and injuries are also reasons that an organ transplant process may be suggested. Organ transplant offers a recipient a new lease of life in cases where they are determined to not survive due to end stage critical organ failure, and currently, organ transplant surgery has become highly specialised to cater to a significant population that can be benefitted by organ transplantation.
While organ transplant was initially restricted to transplantation of vital organs, today, medical and surgical processes have developed to allow transplantation of several organs that allow not only a longer lifespan, but an improved quality of life to recipient patients. Organ transplant types today include:
Since a heart is a vital organ, an organ transplant is provided to the donor from a deceased patient who has suffered brain death, often in the case of an accident. This replaces the organ transplant recipient's damaged heart and offers them a completely new one to afford them a chance at an extended life. Strict organ transplant guidelines surround such a procedure, and the organ transplant surgery is carried out by highly specialised doctors working round the clock to monitor the patient's vital sign throughout the organ transplant process. Due to a scarcity of donors, heart transplants are one of the most critical and least performed organ transplant surgeries, and operations are very few annually.
Another vital organ, healthy lungs are taken from a deceased patient and transplanted into the organ transplant recipient. Due to the lack of donors and the criticality of time of transport, lung transplants also remain rare across the globe. The organ transplant process is highly dependent on finding a highly suitable donor to prevent organ transplant rejection and avoid the immune system attacking the new transplant.
In cases of irreversible liver disease, a patient's unhealthy liver is removed and replaced with either a portion of a liver from a living donor, such as a relative, or with a complete healthy liver from a deceased donor. End-stage liver disease, especially cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol abuse, is the most common reason for organ transplant surgery for the liver. Other causes may include chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C, autoimmune hepatitis, metabolic disorders and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The organ transplant success rate for liver transplants is relatively high, and 75% of patients are alive after five years of a liver transplant.
Kidney and pancreas double transplant is the most common type of organ transplant surgery requiring a pancreas transplant; it is seldom carried out alone. Type 1 diabetes causing kidney failure is the reason for this type of organ transplant surgery, and in most cases, both organs come from a single deceased donor. It is possible, however, that in the kidney-pancreas double transplant, the kidney comes from a living donor, usually a relative, and only the pancreas from a deceased donor. In rare cases of Type 2 diabetes, and organ transplantation involving a kidney as well as the pancreas may be advised.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough insulin, and the kidney failure is progressive. In order to help a patient survive through this, an organ transplant may be advised, and the transplanted pancreas can produce adequate insulin.
In cases where corneal tissue is scarred or otherwise irreparably damaged due to disease or injury, a corneal transplant is suggested. The organ transplant statistics for this type of organ transplant surgery shows a high rate of success and this is one of the more commonly performed organ transplantations. Since corneal eye disease is one of the most common reasons for blindness, corneal transplants are becoming more commonly suggested, and the advances in this organ transplant type has been immense from a surgical perspective.
Some reasons making a corneal transplant necessary include scarring from eye infections such as keratitis or herpes, and other eye diseases such as keratoconus where the shape of the cornea is distorted, making an organ transplant the only way to restore complete vision. Hereditary conditions can also cause corneal disease. Organ transplantation involving the cornea may also be suggested in cases where cataract and LASIK surgeries have been unsuccessful and caused further complications..
Renal disease affects a large part of the population today. Kidneys are an essential part of the human mechanism, helping to filter out toxins from the blood, and ensuring an electrolyte balance that allows the body to function normally. Kidney failure can be contained by either dialysis or kidney transplants. In cases where dialysis is ruled out for the patient due to the severity of the kidney failure or overall health conditions, an organ transplant surgery is suggested. Either one, or both kidneys may be replaced for such patients. A single kidney transplant usually involves a living organ transplant donor and both of them are put on specialised diets and medication to reduce chances of organ transplantation complications such as rejection of the donor organ or blood infections. Patients with cancer, hepatitis or cardiovascular disease are not chosen as candidates for most organ transplant processes, including kidney transplant.
Receiving a kidney from a living relative reduces the chance of rejection of the organ and is suggested as a better choice of organ transplant. This also enables the patient awaiting transfer to bypass the wait of many years to receive the organ transplant.
One of the least conducted organ transplant surgeries, tracheal transplant is performed when the trachea or the airway hardens or is scarred due to disease or injury. Tracheal transplant helps patients who are unable to have a normal life due to trauma from tracheal dysfunction to have a more normal life. The organ transplant process involves procuring the trachea from a deceased donor and replacing the patient's trachea.
Burn or other skin injuries that are too severe to be repaired by the body's own system can be helped through skin transplants. This type of organ transplantation involves grafting of donor skin onto a patient's body and the use of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent graft rejection. Once the organ transplant surgery is carried out, the patient is kept under medical observation for a length of time. This organ transplant process is usually only carried out in cases of severe injury where a patient's own skin cannot be grafted. Once the donor skin is successfully transplanted, doctor's may also transplant the patient's own skin onto other parts of their body.
More often, however, organ transplantation involving the skin does not require a donor, and healthy skin is grafted from the patient's own body onto the burnt area. The injured skin can be more easily replaced as chances of rejection of the organ transplant is lowered.
Organ donation lists are lengthy and patients awaiting Organ Transplants have to wait for several years before receiving a donor organ. It is more feasible for a living donor to be found in case they are relatives, which enables patients to bypass the organ transplant waiting list and receive a transplant less likely to be rejected. However, organ transplant donation itself is often as easy as filling a card, and any organ donor can donate multiple organs, saving many lives in the process.
Finding a donor is usually done by a doctor in touch with a medical board. Once a thorough evaluation is conducted of a patient, deeming them suitable for organ transplantation, the patient is put on an organ transplant list. This list matches an organ transplant patient with a donor at the earliest available opportunity. The donor is usually deceased and has granted permission for organs to be donated after death.
Becoming a donor will allow you to help a patient in need of an organ transplant is easy, and worth considering. All people are potential organ donors, regardless of age or health considerations. Most people are able to donate at least some organs such as cornea or skin. Organ transplant lists are long, and becoming a donor can help save many patients once the donor is deceased. Even newborns and senior citizens can register as organ donors. If one is under 18 years of age, they require parental consent to sign up as donors for organ transplant patients.
It is also possible to become a living donor. In cases where the organ transplantation involves a kidney, pancreas, lung or liver, an organ donor can donate either a single kidney or lung or part of the pancreas or liver. The body compensates for the loss through regeneration or reduced activity.
Organ transplantation requires financial, psychological, mental as well as physical preparation. Once a patient is on the organ transplant list, it is essential that they cultivate patience and a positive attitude to enable themselves to look forwards towards a time without disease. It is necessary to be upfront with the medical team in charge of the organ transplant regarding psychological conditions, and undergo treatment, if deemed necessary. Once a patient is deemed fit to undergo the organ transplant surgery, attention should be paid to financial conditions that accompany such a situation. The waiting time for a patient awaiting an organ transplant from a deceased donor is often the best time to prepare for the organ transplant surgery. Physical fitness, as much as can be achieved, should be aimed for, and any suggested medication regimen should be rigorously followed.
The organ transplant procedure depends completely upon the organ transplant type, and in simple terms, involves the removal of a healthy organ from a donor, either living or deceased, and transplanting this into a patient with end-stage irreversible organ damage. The organ transplant surgery is preceded and succeeded by the use of drugs to prevent transplant rejection, as well as continuous medical evaluation to determine the feasibility of the transplant.
The major risk from an organ transplant surgery is the risk of rejection of the transplanted organ. The body's immune system automatically rejects what it immediately perceives as foreign tissue, causing several reactions in the body. Wherever possible, doctors performing the organ transplant surgery will try to match the donor's and the recipient's blood and tissue types to reduce the chances of organ transplant rejection after organ transplantation is carried out, and also use immunosuppressant drugs to help the recipient body accept the organ more readily.
Other risks of organ transplant surgery also involve infection resulting from the surgery, heart failure during the organ transplant process, excessive bleeding and drug reaction. However, most of these threats are not manifest in most procedures today due to the diligence of the teams involved in organ transplant surgery, and organ transplant rejection remains the most critical and constant risk.
Most patients immediately enjoy a better quality of life after an organ transplant, but constant vigilance in terms of lifestyle and medication are strictly necessary and remain a lifelong process for patients who have undergone organ transplantation. Risky behaviours such as smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, and often any consumption of alcohol, use of recreational drugs, and skipping prescribed medication increase chances of organ transplant failure and morbidity. Medication required after organ transplant is prescribed by the doctor and their team of medical experts and should be followed as a strict regimen. It is also important to schedule regular check-ups with the medical team who have the organ transplant history of the patient.
Immunosuppressant drugs that are prescribed before and after the organ transplant surgery may be subject to change dependent on the patient's reaction, and some drugs do not perform as well over time. This necessitates regular follow ups with the medical team for the patient to aid in near-complete recovery.
While the quality of life is improved for a patient who undergoes a successful organ transplant surgery, they have to continually take several precautions, often requiring a change in lifestyle. In addition to a medication regimen, patients will have to monitor their activity, and depending on their doctor's advice, they may be prescribed higher or lower levels of physical activity. Patients who have undergone organ transplantation will also have to ensure a nutritious diet that allows their body access to all micro and macronutrients on a regular basis. Organ transplant surgery will also see patients having to maintain strict hygienic conditions around their homes and offices, and in many cases, receive professional help from therapists to help with their mental and psychological conditions.
Recovery after any surgery is something that needs to be paid attention to, and despite feeling better overall, the body can undergo many changes resulting from an organ transplant surgery. Therefore, the road to recovery is something that is planned for since before the surgery itself, and must be adhered to by the patient. Most patients who have undergone organ transplant surgery can return to normal life after a span of 2-3 months, and sometimes earlier in case of a skin or corneal transplant. The patient is kept under medical observation for a certain length of time after undergoing the organ transplant process where their condition, response to drugs and vital signs are continuously monitored by the medical team. Once a patient is discharged into the care of family, they are required to follow lifestyle guidance and medication regimens, and come in for regular follow-up medical evaluations.
If all steps are strictly followed, it is possible for patients to live a fulfilling life after an organ transplant.
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