For certain types of end-stage organ failure, transplantation is the treatment that offers a patient the best opportunity for a healthier, more vital life. The road to transplantation is a carefully plotted course:
- Referral: An individual’s primary care physician or specialist refers the patient to the transplant clinic. After an initial visit, medical history review and examination, the transplant clinic determines if the patient should be evaluated for transplantation.
- Evaluation: The evaluation phase consists of a series of in-depth laboratory, physical and psychological exams. When the evaluation is complete, the patient’s case is presented at selection conference.
- Listing: At selection conference, representatives from each corner of the transplant program — physicians, surgeons, nurses, social workers and financial specialists — review the patient’s chart and evaluation to determine if the patient is an appropriate candidate for transplantation. If so, the patient’s name and vital clinical data are entered into the national organ transplant database: the waiting list. If the patient is a candidate for a possible living donor organ (kidney or liver), family and friends may volunteer to be tested to see if any of them is a tissue match and possible donor. In any event, the wait begins.
- Transplantation: This is it! The beginning of the next phase of the patient’s life. With transplantation begins, too, a lifetime of immunosuppressive medication to keep the recipient’s body from rejecting the donor organ(s). The transplant center follows each recipient for a lifetime: annual exams and biopsies are routine. But it’s a small price to pay for the rarest of opportunities: a second chance at life.
For more information, see Transplant Living at www.transplantliving.org/.