Everything You Need to Know About Organ Donation

drkmh Everything You Need to Know About Organ Donation


Organ donation after a person’s death ideally occurs as soon as possible after death is confirmed, while the organs are still viable. The timing of organ donation is critical to ensure the organs remain suitable for transplantation.

Organ donation is a selfless act that can provide a second chance at life for people suffering from organ failure or other serious medical conditions.


Organ transplantation is a well-established medical procedure with stringent regulations and ethical guidelines in place to ensure the safety and well-being of both donors and recipients. Medical professionals carefully evaluate potential donors to determine the suitability of the organs for transplantation and to ensure that the donation process does not pose any unnecessary risks to the donor.


Let us look at some commonly asked questions about organ donation.


Q: At what age can I become an organ donor?


Dr: In general, individuals of all ages can potentially become organ donors, from infants to older adults. Organs and tissues like corneas, heart valves, and skin can often be donated from older individuals. However, certain factors, such as the type of organ, its condition, and the recipient’s medical needs, can influence whether an organ is suitable for transplantation.


Q: Can elderly people donate their organs?


Dr: It is important to note that even if you are older, your decision to become an organ donor can still greatly impact and save lives. While age can be a consideration, it is not the sole determining factor. Organs such as corneas, heart valves, and skin can often be donated from older individuals. However, for solid organs like the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys, medical professionals will assess the health and condition of the organs to determine their suitability for transplantation.


Q: Can someone with an autoimmune disease donate their organs?


Dr: The eligibility of individuals with autoimmune diseases to donate organs can vary depending on the specific disease, its severity, and the organs being considered for donation. Certain autoimmune diseases might affect the function or condition of organs, potentially making them unsuitable for transplantation. Ultimately, the decision about whether someone with an autoimmune disease can donate their organs will be made by medical professionals on a case-by-case basis.


Q: Does having diabetes disqualify a person from being an organ donor?


Dr: Individuals with Type 1 diabetes might not be eligible to donate organs due to the potential impact of diabetes on the organs and the overall health of the donor. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand being more common and if well-managed with no underlying complications may be considered for organ donation under certain circumstances.


However, if diabetes has caused severe damage to the organs or other health complications, donation might not be possible. In any case, medical professionals will conduct a thorough evaluation of the potential donor’s health to determine if their organs are suitable for transplantation.


Q: What organs can be donated from a deceased person’s body?


Dr: A deceased person can potentially donate several organs and tissues, which can then be transplanted into individuals in need. The organs and tissues that can be donated after death include:


  • Heart: Used for heart transplants to replace a damaged or failing heart in patients with severe heart conditions.
  • Lungs: Used for lung transplants to improve breathing and oxygenation in individuals with end-stage lung diseases.
  • Liver: Used for liver transplants to treat individuals with advanced liver disease or acute liver failure.
  • Kidneys: Used for kidney transplants, as kidneys are vital for filtering waste and maintaining fluid balance in the body.
  • Pancreas: Used for pancreas transplants, often in combination with kidney transplants, for individuals with diabetes or pancreas-related conditions.
  • Intestines: Used for intestine transplants in cases of intestinal failure or severe digestive disorders.
  • Corneas: The transparent front portion of the eyes, used for cornea transplants to restore vision in people with corneal damage or disease.
  • Skin: Donated skin is used for grafts to treat burn victims and individuals with severe skin injuries.
  • Bones: Donated bones can be used in orthopaedic surgeries to replace or repair damaged bones.
  • Heart Valves: Donated heart valves can be used in heart valve replacement surgeries.
  • Blood Vessels: Donated blood vessels are used in various surgeries, including those involving blood vessel repair or replacement.
  • Tendons: Donated tendons are used in reconstructive surgeries, particularly for individuals with damaged or torn tendons.

Q: How soon after the person’s death should the organs be donated?


Dr: Organ donation after a person’s death ideally occurs as soon as possible after death is confirmed, while the organs are still viable. The timing of organ donation is critical to ensure the organs remain suitable for transplantation.


Ideally, if the person’s heart, lungs, and liver are being donated then it must be done within six hours after the person passed away and must be stored in suitable conditions outside the body. The kidneys remain viable for transplant after being outside the body for up to 36 hours. The corneas should be collected preferably within an hour of death. Hence it is critical for surviving family members to notify the concerned hospital at the earliest to send the right personnel to procure the organs.


Q: How safe is it to be a living donor?


Dr: Living organ donation is often done between family members or individuals with a close relationship, but it can also occur between unrelated individuals in some cases. The decision to become a living organ donor should be made after careful consideration and consultation with medical professionals, family, and support networks.

It is important to note that living organ donation is a major decision that involves careful evaluation, medical assessments, and consideration of the donor’s health and well-being. The donor’s safety is a top priority, and medical professionals thoroughly assess the physical and psychological suitability of potential living donors before proceeding with transplantation.


Q: What organs can be donated by a living donor?


Dr: Living donors can donate certain organs and tissues to help individuals in need of transplantation. The organs and tissues that can be donated by a living donor include:

  • Kidney: Living kidney donation is relatively common. A healthy person can donate one of their kidneys, as the remaining kidney can usually compensate for the loss of function. Kidney transplants from living donors have a higher success rate and offer shorter waiting times compared to deceased donor transplants.
  • Liver: In some cases, a portion of a healthy person’s liver can be donated to a recipient in need. The donor’s liver regenerates over time, and the transplanted portion grows to a functional size in both the donor and the recipient.
  • Lung: Lung transplantation from living donors is rare and complex. It typically involves lobectomy, where a lobe of the lung is removed from the donor and transplanted into the recipient. This procedure is mainly considered for lung transplants between close family members.
  • Intestine: Living donor intestine transplantation is a complex procedure that might be considered for individuals with intestinal failure or severe digestive disorders. It is relatively rare and often done in specialized medical centres.
  • Pancreas: Living pancreas donation is possible, but it is less common due to the complexity of the procedure and the risks involved. It is usually considered for individuals with diabetes or pancreas-related conditions who also need a kidney transplant.

Q: How are organ donors and receivers matched?


Dr: The hospital or Organ procurement organization uses a computerized system to match donors with potential recipients. A list of patients in need of organ transplants is readily available to them. When they are alerted on the availability of an organ, the system takes into account multiple factors to match donor and recipient. Some factors considered are listed below:


  • Blood Type Compatibility: Blood type compatibility between donor and recipient is a critical factor in organ transplantation to avoid immune rejection.
  • Tissue Typing: Tissue compatibility is considered, especially for organs like kidneys, to minimize the risk of rejection.
  • Medical Urgency: The severity of the recipient’s medical condition and how urgently they need the transplant, play a role in prioritizing matches.
  • Organ Size and Compatibility: The size of the organ and its suitability for the recipient’s body size are taken into consideration.
  • Waiting Time: The length of time the recipient has been on the waiting list is considered, with priority often given to those who have been waiting longer.

Consultant-Nephrologist at Dr.Kamakshi Memorial Hospitals
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