An organ transplant can be a life-saving surgery for someone with a necessary organ that is about to fail or no longer functions. But appropriate organs are not always available for transplant when needed, and not every person with organ failure is a candidate for organ transplant surgery.
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a private, non-profit organization that is under contract with the U.S. government to manage the nation’s organ transplant system. Its job description includes:
• Matching organ donors with recipients
• Maintaining a database of information about every organ transplant in the United States
• Helping to develop and monitor policies to ensure all patients in need of an organ have a fair chance to receive an appropriate match
According to UNOS, more than 14,000 organ transplants took place in the United States between January and June, 2014. In September, nearly 80,000 candidates were on the active waiting list hoping that an organ would become available for transplant.
In order to become a candidate for organ donation, a patient must first receive a diagnosis that requires transplant surgery. The most common diagnosis is end-stage organ failure as the result of some other serious disease such as cardiomyopathy, COPD, coronary heart disease, diabetes or cystic fibrosis.
If your doctor believes you need an organ transplant, he or she will refer you to a transplant center for evaluation. The transplant center will run physical tests to determine whether you are healthy enough for successful surgery.
This includes determining whether the other organs and systems in your body are functioning well enough to support the new organ.
The center will also consider non-medical criteria to determine if you are a good candidate to receive an organ. These criteria may include:
• Life expectancy
How old are you and what other physical issues do you have? Are you likely to reach the expected “life span” of the transplant organ if you have transplant surgery?
• Past behavior