Organ and Tissue Donation: Give Life and Health to Others

Organ Donation

Currently 113,000 people – a group so large that even the biggest U.S. football stadium couldn’t accommodate it -- are awaiting a life-saving transplant in the U.S. And while 95% of Americans are in favor of donating their organs and tissue, only 58% are registered donors. Critical organ donor shortages account for 22 deaths daily because required donations are not made in time, mounting to 8,000 deaths occurring each year.

Donate Life’s Every Community Has Opportunity (ECHO) awareness program, a national two-week outreach during July, focuses on the importance of donation and transplantation within multicultural communities.

Education regarding organ and transplant awareness geared within multicultural communities is especially important since

  • over 67,000 people or 59% on national transplant waiting lists are from these communities.
  • African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Hispanics are more likely to have chronic health conditions affecting the heart, liver, lung, pancreas and kidney, requiring organ donation or transplantation consideration.
  • In most transplant situations (with exceptions of corneal tissue transplants), donor and recipient blood types must match. Since some blood types are more prevalent within ethnic populations, the need for multicultural organ and tissue donors is critically high.
  • Transplants can be successful regardless of ethnicities of both donor and recipient. The likelihood, however, of longer-term survival may be greater if donor and recipient are closely matched in terms of shared genetic backgrounds.

Importance of Donor Registration

Increasing organ and transplant donors is important, as the organ shortage continues to swiftly outpace the number of donors and transplants. Being a registered donor is important because:

  • one person can save 8 lives through organ donation
  • one tissue donor can help 75 people
  • every 10 minutes another person is added to the transplant waiting list
  • only 3 in 1,000 people die in a way that allows for organ donation
  • 66% on the donor waiting list are over age 50.
  • almost 2,000 children under 18 are awaiting donor organs, with 25% under age 5.

Your Capital Women’s Care team wants to share vital information about organ and tissue donation and transplantation, the different types of organ and tissue donations, the organs that may be donated, and explain how you and your family can become registered organ or tissue donors to give others the priceless opportunity for a second chance at health and life.

Organ Donor Facts

Some facts about organ and tissue donation:

  • Almost anyone of any age can become a donor, as there is no defined age cut-off.
  • Very few medical conditions automatically disqualify organ or tissue donation.
  • Kidney donors do not have to be from an organ recipient’s family.
  • More than half of donated organs and tissues are from registered donors. Family/next of kin may also offer legal consent.
  • The organ donor’s family does not pay costs associated with organ and tissue transplants.

The Donor/Recipient Matching Process

Donors must meet strict medical matching guidelines, including:

  • blood type match (with exception of corneal tissue transplants)
  • body size factors, particularly in relation to heart and lung transplantations, where organs must be optimally positioned within recipient’s ribcage
  • and medical urgency, recipient distance from donor hospital, pediatric status plus other medical information supporting successful transplantation.

Types of Organ Donation

There are 4 types of organ donation:

  • Living donation – these donations come from living donors and include blood, bone marrow, kidney, or liver section.

A person can live with one kidney, as the remaining kidney enlarges to do the workload of both.

The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself. Living donor livers fully regrow within 4 months and ultimately regain full function. The donated portion given to recipient does the same.

Kidney and liver recipients of living donor transplants obtain the best quality organ sooner than awaiting deceased donation, often in less than a year.

Those expressing desire to be living donors must be 18 years of age. Potential living donors receive a full medical exam, rigorous medical counseling outlaying the risks and requirements for successful transplantation, and assessment of their mental and physical health before becoming registered living donors.

  • Deceased donation - these part or whole organ, eye and tissue donations occur at the time of the donor’s death to be transplanted to another.
  • Vascularized Composite Allographs (VCAs) – involves the transplantation of multiple structures, including skin, bones, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. Most common VCAs are hand and face transplants.
  • Pediatric donation – involves pairing appropriate-sized organs for young organ recipients, a critical factor for organ transplantation success.

Organs Viable for Donation

There were 39,718 transplants performed in 2019, a new record high for the seventh straight consecutive year. Each day about 80 people receive organ transplants.

The following organs are viable for donation and transplantation:

Kidney100,000 people in the U.S. are currently awaiting kidney donation. The average wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor is 3 to 5 years.

Kidney transplant is necessary to treat End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or kidney failure. ESRD can be caused by diabetes, polycystic kidney disease (PKD), hypertension, or chronic glomerulonephritis, the inflammation and subsequent scarring of the kidney filters known as glomeruli.

Those experiencing kidney failure require dialysis, which filters waste from the body; however, dialysis only accomplishes 10 to 15% of the work of a healthy kidney. Each dialysis treatment lasts 4 hours and must be done 3 times a week.

Both living and deceased donor options may be used for kidney transplant. Living donor kidney can function 12 to 20 years, while a deceased donor kidney functions 8 to 12 years. Living donors are more often from the recipient’s family. However, if correct matching occurs, a kidney may come from others.

Benefits of living donor kidney transplant is lowered risk of organ rejection, improved recipient survival and quality of life, lower treatment costs, and avoidance of restrictions and complications incurred with dialysis.

Liver14,000 people in the U.S. currently are awaiting a donor liver.

Most liver transplants use deceased donor organ; however, a liver section may come from a living donor. An adult living donor may donate to an adult or child recipient.

Transplant is advised for those with end-stage liver failure (ESLF) that doesn’t respond well to other treatment options, those with specific types of liver cancers, and includes those with acute liver failure or chronic liver failure.

Liver failure may be caused by viral infection (hepatitis C), cirrhosis of liver, early-stage liver cancer, hemochromatosis, primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, Wilson’s disease, alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, biliary duct atresia and cystic fibrosis.

Heart4,000 people diagnosed with heart failure are awaiting a donor heart.

Causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease, weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), valvular heart disease, a congenital heart defect present since birth, or failure of a previous heart transplant.

Child recipients usually require heart transplant due to congenital heart defect or cardiomyopathy.

Recipients have an 85% survival rate one-year post-transplant surgery and are often prescribed medication to avoid post-transplant complications.

Lung1,400 adults and children in the U.S. are awaiting lung transplant.

Transplants may replace one or both lungs. Those with life-threatening lung function not helped with medications or special breathing devices are recipients.

Life-threatening lung function is caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of lungs), cystic fibrosis, sarcoidosis with advanced fibrosis or pulmonary hypertension.

IntestinesAbout 250 people in the U.S. are awaiting intestinal transplants.

Small intestine failure requires transplant whereas large intestine is not necessary to sustain life.

Intestinal transplants include small bowel, multi-visceral, and combined liver and intestine transplant. Children usually receive small intestinal transplant in combination with liver, stomach and pancreas as a multi-organ transplant.

When total intestinal failure occurs, food cannot be digested and the fluids, electrolytes and nutrients required to sustain life cannot be absorbed. Nutrition known as Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) is delivered via catheter or needle in liquid form. Long-term TPN can cause bone disorders, catheter-related infections and liver failure.

Intestinal failure in adults may be caused by Crohn’s disease, abdominal trauma, surgical adhesions, pseudo obstructions, desmoid tumors, vascular occlusion, radiation enteritis, among others.

PancreasNearly all pancreas transplants are done as treatment for type 1 diabetes, which offers potential cure for the condition.

Some transplants are done to treat type 2 diabetes, or in treatment of pancreatic, bile duct or other cancers.

Combined kidney and pancreas transplant may occur for people with diabetes who have or are at risk for kidney damage. More than 2/3 of pancreatic transplants are done to avoid future diabetes-related kidney damage. Due to long wait times for donated organs, the kidney transplant may be done first, with the pancreas transplant following later upon its availability.

Pancreatic transplants offer significant side effects and are reserved for those with serious diabetes complications.

TissueOne tissue donor can help 75 people. There are 1.75 million tissue transplants done each year. 

Many tissues may be donated for transplantation, including:

  • Corneal – everyone is a universal donor, as blood type match is not necessary. Corneal tissue transplants can restore vision with a 95% success rate.
  • Skin – for severe burns or serious, life-threatening medical situations.
  • Bone, ligaments and tendons – to restore mobility and prevent amputation.
  • Musculoskeletal structures, teeth, spinal components, heart valves, veins, blood, bone marrow and birth tissue – to promote healing processes, increase quality of life and longevity, augment reconstructive processes and treat burns and painful wounds.

Tissue transplants are a viable alternative to poor medical alternatives, ends needless suffering and saves lives.

Save More Lives –
Become a Registered Donor

In 2020 thus far, more than 156 million people over age 18 are registered organ donors. That’s more than half of all U.S. adults. 

To become a registered donor, you can:

  • register with your state’s donor registry at organdonor.gov, which legally authorizes organ donation upon death.
  • designate your choice to be a registered donor when you get or renew your driver’s license.
  • tell your family – communicate your wishes to be a donor to your family.
  • include your wishes in a Living Will document.

Consent from family or next of kin is not required if you are registered with your state donor registry or have a donor designation on your driver’s license.

To register your decision to save and heal lives, visit RegisterMe.org.

To learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation, visit DonateLife.net.

For more information on multicultural communities and donation, please visit AMAT1.org.

Your Capital Women’s Care team is here for you and your family to address your questions or concerns regarding personal organ and tissue donation decisions.

References:

https://www.donatelife.net/
https://www.donatelife.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ECHO-Donate-Life-2019-Boomerang-Challenge.pdf
https://organdonationalliance.org/education-corner-echo-2018/
https://www.organdonor.gov/
https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html
https://medlineplus.gov/organdonation.html
https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/donor-day/

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