How Organ Transplants Work


The area of organ transplants is an important part of medicine. A team of professionals, including doctors, surgeons, and anesthetists, is needed to carry out the procedure. Many tests need to be done to check health and compatibility issues. Many organs have been transplanted successfully, and researchers are always looking to expand this work to cover more.

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Sourcing the Organs

In an organ transplant, a medical procedure is conducted to take an organ from one body, the donor, to that of another, the recipient. There may be various reasons for this. Organ damage, organ failure, and a missing organ are the most common ones. The new replacement organ is known as the autograft. This must work well to carry on normal organ functions in the body of the recipient.

There are many organs that have been transplanted with great results. Many are familiar with kidney transplants. Other organs included in the list are the heart, liver, lungs, intestine, pancreas, and thymus. Tissue transplants are another big area of medical science, and a lot of progress is being made there as well.

There are a few different sources for replacement organs. Organs can come from a member of the same species, in which case they are known as allografts. The source of such organs can be a cadaver. Many people sign up to become organ donors once they pass on. Their organs, if in good condition, can thereafter be used on those that require them. Organs for transplants can also come from living sources. In this case, a person can donate an organ they can live without. The organ removal and transplant can happen in different locations and time periods, or they can be done on the same occasion.

In a few cases, an organ or tissue can be obtained from another species. This is called a xenotransplant or a xenograft. The hearts of pigs are quite similar in size to human hearts. Because of this, porcine heart valve transplants are quite common and very successful. For other xenotransplants, there has to be a lot more research and testing done. Compatibility is a major issue when it comes to transplants, and if this is not taken care of, this can be very dangerous for the recipient, as discussed in the next section.

Conducting the Procedure

The organ transplant procedure is a delicate surgical procedure. So much preparation must be done beforehand to ensure that all the boxes are checked. Finding a suitable healthy organ, matching blood types, and other compatibility tests all need to be done.

Compatibility in organ transplants is about making sure the new organ fits well with its recipient. For example, for a kidney transplant, some of the tests that need to be run include blood typing to find ABO compatibility between the donor and recipient, tissue or genetic typing to match genetic similarities, physical exams, blood and urine tests, x-rays, and CT scans. Cross-matching is done as a blood test between the recipient and the donor that is run at least twice. This is to see whether or not the recipient reacts well to the donor’s blood.

When it comes to xenotransplants, some of the limiting factors include the genetic differences between human beings and other species and different pathogens and diseases prevalent in the other species, which may be carried to the human recipient.

When the new organ is transplanted, immunosuppression drugs are required. These drugs help to suppress the immune system of the recipient to prevent it from reacting negatively to the new organ or tissue. This could otherwise lead to the rejection of the organ. There is a lot that goes into getting the right organ, conducting surgery, and helping the recipient adjust to a new life.

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