Organs can be acquired from either Deceased Donors or Living Donors

1. Deceased Organ Donation

It is important to sign up as an organ donor by registering in your respective state. This allows others to know of your intention to donate before such a situation arises where you might not be in a position to make that decision. Signing up does not automatically guarantee you will be able to donate your organs, eyes, or tissues and counselors will confer with your relatives before accepting you as an organ donor. However the first step is to register as an organ donor to be eligible to save lives.

– How can you register?

– How can one become a deceased organ donor?

When a patient comes to a hospital because of illness or accident such as a severe head trauma or stroke, the medical team does everything possible to save the patient’s life. However some patients cannot be revived and despite cardiac activity, are determined to be brain-dead.A patient who is brain dead has no brain activity and cannot breathe on his or her own.The physician will then perform a series of tests to determine if indeed brain death has occurred.Brain death is irreversible and it is the legal definition of death. Someone who is brain dead cannot recover.Only after brain death has been confirmed and the time of death noted, organ donation becomes a possibility.The family can then be approached for organ donation.

2. Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO)

In keeping with federal regulations, hospitals notify the local Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) of every patient death or where death is inevitable.Based on the hospital’s information,the local OPO determines if the patient has the potential to be an organ donor.Should the person be deemed a potential candidate for donation,a representative from the OPO travels immediately to the hospital.The OPO representative checks if the deceased is registered as an organ donor on their state registry.If so,that serves as legal consent for donation.If the deceased has not registered,and there is no other legal consent for donation on file,the OPO approaches the next of kin for authorization.Should the family consent to organ donation,the next step is a thorough evaluation,including obtaining the deceased’s complete medical and social history from the family.If the evaluation makes donation likely,the OPO contacts the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Note: The OPTN operates a national database of all patients in the U.S. awaiting a transplant.The OPO enters information about the deceased donor into its database and the computer system generates a list of patients who match the donor (by organ).Each available organ is offered to the transplant team of the best-matched patient.The transplant surgeon determines whether the organ is medically suitable for a particular patient.If, for any reason,the surgeon determines that the organ isn’t medically acceptable (eg. if the patient is too sick to be transplanted or the organ won’t reach in time) they may refuse the organ.Most organs go to patients in the area where the organs were recovered.The others are shared with patients in other regions of the country.

3. Recovering Organs

While the search for recipients is under way,the deceased donor’s organs are maintained on artificial support.Machines keep blood containing oxygen flowing to the organs.The condition of each organ is carefully monitored by the hospital medical staff and the OPO procurement coordinator.A transplant surgical team replaces the medical team that treated the patient before death.The medical team trying to save the patient’s life and the transplant team are kept distinct to avoid any conflicts of interest.With great care and dexterity,the surgical team removes the organs and tissues from the donor’s body in an operating room.First, organs are recovered,and then additional tissues authorized for donation such as bone,cornea and skin can be retrieved. All incisions are surgically closed.Organ donation does not interfere with an open-casket funeral. Organs remain healthy only for a short period of time after removal from the donor, so minutes count.The OPO representative arranges for the transportation of the organs to the hospitals of the intended recipients.Transportation depends on the distance involved, and can include ambulances,helicopters and commercial airplanes.

4. Transplanting Organs

The transplant operation takes place after the transport team arrives at the hospital with the new organ.The transplant recipient is typically waiting at the hospital and may already be in the operating room awaiting the arrival of the lifesaving organ.Surgical teams work around the clock as needed to transplant the new organs into the waiting recipients.