Transplants — organ transplants is the removal of organs from donors’ bodies (living or dead) and using them to replace patients’ sick or failing organs.
Among organs which can be transplanted today are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, and intestine as well as penis and eyes. But organs are not the only body parts which are transplantable; tissues of various types such as bones, bone marrow tendons, cornea, heart valves, veins, arms, hands and skin are also being transplanted successfully.
Types of Transplants Available Today
The types of transplants which are available in modern day medicine include the following:
A patient’s own tissues are transplanted from one area to another and it involves excessive tissues or those tissues which are capable of regenerating. The most common among autografts are skin and vein as well as the patient’s own blood which had been stored prior to surgical procedures and is then used as needed during and/or after the surgery.
This encompasses most standard human organ and tissue transplants as it involves transplants of organs and/or between the same species as in human to human.
This involves organ and/or tissue transplants between identical twins. This is the safest transplant with the highest success rate as it does not trigger immune responses.
This is the transplant of organs and/or tissues from one species to another.
This involves the splitting of a single donated organ or tissue (such a liver or skin) and transplanting it into two patients.
This involves juggling of organs as one patient received both lungs and heart but since the heart of the patient is healthy, it is then transplanted into another patient.
Numeric Facts about Organ Transplants
Organ transplants in humans became a reality and an enormous medical breakthrough which saves countless lives began with several kidney transplants in the early years of the 1950s. This incredible medical advancement opened up many doors for other organ transplants and the procedures have become more and more fine tuned and progressively gained higher success rates while adding more years to patients’ lives. Today, organ transplants are common routines in just about every hospital around the world and, for the most part, they are very safe.
In the year 2000 and in the United States alone; 5,984 cadavers (deceased donors) were donated, plus 5,700 live donors made their transplantable organs available. Also in the United States during the year 2000, the following transplants of major organs were performed successful but there were many more patients waiting for their turn:
- Lungs — transplanted 956, on the waiting list 3,812
- Heart — transplanted 2,198, on the waiting list 4,139
- Heart and lung — 48 transplanted, on the waiting list 213
- Liver — transplanted 4,954, on the waiting list 18,752
- Pancreas — 435 transplanted, on the waiting list 1,217
- Kidney — 13,327 transplanted, on the waiting list 50,898
- Kidney and pancreas — 911 transplanted, on the waiting list 2,451
- Intestine — 79 transplanted, on the waiting list 183
As can easily be discerned, we are faced with a huge dilemma nowadays; supply does not meet demand as the need and request has become far greater than the availability of organs. There simply are not enough life-saving organs to go around because the rate of donation is much too low. With an average of 114 patients being added to the waiting list for donor transplants, many patients wait for months and even years for the chance at recovery and a new lease on life and many of them suffer and die (5,794 in the year 2000) before they ever reach the top of the long waiting list.
Having to deal with a number of sensitive issues, transplantation medicine is probably the most challenging fields of modern medicine as it faces multifaceted issues such as: (a) keeping the donated organ healthy and in a fully functioning state while preparing to transplant it from the donor to the recipient (the patient); (b) ensuring that the patient’s immune system does not reject the transplanted organ; and (c) the complex mechanics of the transplant procedure itself.
Transplantation medicine also faces an entire set of bioethical issues which question the definition of life vs. death; the means by which consent for organ transplants is given or gotten; the systems which determines who benefits from organ transplants, when and how; the fact that payment (large payment) is involved in organ transplants; and so on.
After the Transplant
Other than having to deal with the standard issues of recovery after surgery, transplant patients have to also deal with the fact that their immune systems may reject the newly transplanted organs and/or tissues. To help prevent rejection, donor recipients must take immunosuppressants which make them vulnerable to a wide variety of pathogens (disease causing agents such as germs, virus, etc.).