Advances in transplant medicine mean more patients can now be saved, or their quality of life improved. Transplants are regularly carried out on the kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and small bowel. Also, tissue such as corneas and heart valves can be donated.
Patients of all ages, including newborn babies, require donation for many different reasons including illness and accident. For example, organs such as lungs and the heart can be used for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis or heart disease. Tissue donation can be used to help patients see again or relieve pain.
The many ways which organ donation can help aren’t always obvious - another reason why it is important to register because we all have the potential to help someone in need of an organ or tissue.
When you sign the NHS Donor Register, you can chose which organs you wish to donate. Below is a list of organs which can be donated and how they can are used.
For conditions such as heart disease, sometimes medication or conventional operations no longer work. A transplant is sometimes the only option.
Many patients needing a transplant have chronic infection of the lungs from either cystic fibrosis or other conditions such as bronchiectasis.
When kidneys fail, people suffer tiredness, swelling, breathlessness, anaemia, anxiety and nausea. A kidney transplant frees patients from the burden of dialysis.
Transplantation is usually done either to treat the symptoms of a disease such as primary biliary cirrhosis, or to save the life of a patient dying from liver failure.
A pancreas transplant is the only treatment which restores insulin independence for people with Type 1 diabetes, and can prevent, or slow down, diabetic complications like blindness and kidney failure.
Small bowel transplantation is a treatment for both adults and children with intestinal failure – helping avoid life-threatening infections and other complications.
Tissue transplantation offers huge benefits to many people. It can relieve pain, improve sight or enable recipients to return to work and get on with living a normal life. Heart valves can save the lives of patients, including young children born with malformed hearts, or suffering from diseased or damaged valves. Donation can also help patients suffering from severe eye disease or injury. When a donor consents to donating their corneas, the eyes are removed to preserve the integrity of the corneas until they are ready for transplantation. Additionally, other parts of the eye such as the sclera can also be used for transplantation.
It is possible to be a living donor. The most common type is kidney donation, when one kidney is removed from a healthy individual and transplanted into a relative or friend. In recent years, it has also become possible for people to donate part of their liver.
Living donation is obviously a very major decision, and every person who comes forward undergoes a rigorous assessment. All live donors and recipients are reviewed by an independent assessor who is responsible for making sure there’s no pressure or coercion involved, and that all parties understand the risk of complications.
The Organ Donor Register is only for those who wish to donate after death. To be a living donor, you must contact a transplant centre directly.