How does organ donation take place? Part 2 of 2: the list and transplantable organs & tissues

In a previous post, I explained the transplant process. In this post, the second part of my two-part blog, I will explain how the transplant waiting list works, how organs are allocated to recipients, and which organs and tissues can be transplanted. This whole post was inspired by a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine about Steve Jobs and his 2009 liver transplant, in which I was reminded (as I often am) that most members of the public, even those who are designated organ donors, have no idea how the process works. So, without further ado, here is some information about the list and transplantable organs and tissues:

The List

The waiting list is maintained by a non-profit organization called the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). People on the waiting list are ranked based on urgency of need and time waiting, and organs are allocated based on those factors as well as blood type, tissue type, and size.

Patients must be listed by a transplant hospital, which is a hospital that evaluates transplant patients and also performs their organ transplants. All patients have the opportunity to be listed by any transplant hospital they choose, however they must be able to get to the hospital for routine evaluations and procedures. This is how Steve Jobs was able to be listed in Tennessee, where the wait for a liver is shorter than in his home state of California. Steve Jobs was also very sick, which allowed him to be a higher priority on the transplant waiting list.

*Fun Fact: The state of Maryland has two transplant hospitals: The Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Maryland Medical Center.

The Organs and Tissues

Transplantable organs include:

  • Kidneys (2)
  • Lungs (2)
  • Pancreas
  • Heart
  • Liver (can be split and transplanted into up to two people)
  • Small intestine

Transplantable tissues include:

  • Bone
  • Skin
  • Veins
  • Heart valves
  • Cartilage
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Corneas (eyes)
  • Pericardium
  • Fascia lata (the thin covering of the muscles.)

So I hope you ended up with a better understanding of organ donation after reading this two-part post, and as always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment and we will be happy to answer them.

–          Lauren

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About Lauren

Lauren Muskauski is the communications associate at The Living Legacy Foundation. She heads up many community outreach initiatives and projects, with a focus on middle school, high school and college outreach. She also manages The LLF’s and Donate Life Maryland’s presence on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Lauren’s commitment to donation started early when she registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the MVA upon receiving her first drivers’ license, but was then reinforced a few years later when her father passed away while waiting for a liver transplant. Now, she continues to be inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of donors and their families, as well as the gratitude exhibited by every recipient she meets.
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