Organ Donation - What Is It?

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Organ Donation - What Is It?
Organ Donation - What Is It?
Video: Organ Donation - What Is It?
Video: Organ Donation and Transplantation: How Does it Work? 2023, February

Organ donation: what is it?

The transplantation of an organ is a proven therapy for patients with irreversible organ failure. Transplants of kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas and small intestine are well established. Most donor organs come from people who have died in hospital and who have been diagnosed with brain death. Living donations are also possible for certain organs, such as the kidneys or liver.


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  • When is an organ transplant necessary?
  • How do patients get on a waiting list?
  • Arranging organ donations

The number of patients waiting for a donor organ is higher than the number of available donor organs. That is why patients - depending on the organ - often wait several months to years for a suitable donor organ.

A transplant usually involves the following steps:

  • Preliminary examination to see if a transplant is possible.
  • Waiting time before organ donation can be arranged.
  • Transplantation of the organ in an operation lasting several hours.
  • Follow-up care with regular check-ups and lifelong drug treatment to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted organ.

Note Information about the transplant system in Austria (number of organ donations, average waiting times, legal framework, etc.) can be found in the annual transplant report (prepared by the coordination office for transplantation at Gesundheit Österreich GmbH on behalf of the Ministry of Health).

When is an organ transplant necessary?

First of all, if an organ becomes seriously ill, all other available therapies are exhausted. However, a transplant is often the last option of treatment if the diseased organ no longer functions properly or fails completely.

An organ transplant can be medically indicated if a disease is caused by a genetic defect or if it progresses irreversibly over the course of life and endangers life or severely reduces the quality of life.

Indications for organ transplants are, for example:

  • Chronic renal insufficiency (requires dialysis), renal failure: kidney transplant,
  • advanced coronary artery disease, heart muscle diseases: heart transplant,
  • various forms of liver cirrhosis, certain metabolic diseases (e.g. Wilson's disease, hemochromatosis, tyrosinemia), liver trauma, fulminant hepatitis, poisoning etc.: liver transplantation,
  • COPD, cystic fibrosis (cystic fibrosis): lung transplant,
  • Diabetes mellitus: transplant of the pancreas.

How do patients get on a waiting list?

If the attending physician determines that a transplant is medically indicated, the patient will be referred to a transplant center.

Further examinations are carried out in the transplant center (e.g. medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests including HLA and blood group determination). The doctor at the transplant center clarifies whether there are any contraindications to a transplant. These include, for example, severe infectious diseases, malignant tumors or severe diseases of other organs. The willingness of the patient to consistently carry out any accompanying drug treatment that may be necessary after the transplant is also clarified.

If, after the examinations, a transplant is possible and sensible, the patient will be placed on the waiting list maintained by the center and the data will be forwarded to the Eurotransplant Foundation.

Arranging organ donations

The placement of organs (allocation) of deceased persons takes place in Austria via the Eurotransplant Foundation (ET) according to special criteria defined by national and international specialist societies. These include the blood group, the medical donor profile, the chances of success, the waiting time and the urgency of a transplant at the recipient.

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