What is an organ transplant?

An organ transplant replaces a failing organ with a healthy organ. A doctor will remove an organ from another person and place it in your body. This may be done when your organ has stopped working or stopped working well because of disease or injury.

Not all organs can be transplanted. Organs most often transplanted include:

  • The kidney, because of diabetes, polycystic kidney disease, lupus, or other problems.
  • The liver, because of cirrhosis, which has many causes.
  • The heart , because of coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and other heart problems.
  • The pancreas, because of diabetes.
  • The lung , because of cystic fibrosis, COPD (Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease), and other problems.
  • The small intestine, because of short bowel syndrome caused by necrotizing enterocolitis, Crohn's disease, and other problems.

More than one organ can be transplanted at one time. For example, a heart and lung transplant is possible.

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.

How successful is an organ transplant?

Organ transplants have been done in the United States since the 1950s. The procedure is always improving, and 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. The more matches you have with the donor, the more likely your body will accept the donor organ.

You'll 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 antirejection medicines for the rest of your life to prevent your immune system from rejecting the new organ. You will need less of these medicines as time goes by.

Because these antirejection medicines weaken the immune system, you may have to stay away from large crowds for a while and stay away from people who have infections. Be sure you talk to your doctor before you take any nonprescription medicines, such as cold remedies. These medicines may cause problems with your antirejection medicines.

You will also have regular checkups and blood tests to see how well your new organ is working.

Depression is common after an organ transplant. If you think you may be depressed, get help. The earlier depression is treated, the more quickly you will feel better.

You may need to make some lifestyle changes to keep your new organ healthy and strong. This can include eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. Your doctor can help you plan any needed changes. Keeping in touch with your doctor, taking your medicines, going to your doctor appointments, and making lifestyle changes are all important.

Who can be an organ donor?

Most people can be organ donors. 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." To be a living donor, you must be in good health and be physically fit, free from long-term diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, free from mental health problems, and between the ages of 18 and 60.

Source: WebMD