Organ donation: giving life

Organ donation giving life

More than 10,000 seriously ill people, including many children, are currently waiting for a donor organ. For them it is often the only possible life-saving measure. About a third of patients whose heart, liver or lungs fail will not win the race against time and will succumb to their disease before a suitable donor organ is available. A successful transplant can save lives, but in other cases it can also improve the patient’s quality of life to an extent that would otherwise not be possible. Anyone who knows the suffering of an affected person can imagine what a transplant means for  them  it is felt like a new life.

More patients than available donor organs

The gap between available donor organs and patients who urgently need a transplant is widening as more and more patients are confronted with a stagnating number of organs available.

Of the approximately 80,000 dialysis patients, for example, almost 8,000 were put on the waiting list for a transplant. Their number is almost four times the number of organs transplanted each year: in 2017, 1,921 kidneys were transplanted in Germany. Currently, the average waiting time for a kidney is about six years.

Although around 80 percent of the population is in favor of organ donation, only a few clearly document it with an organ donor card. A historic low was reached in 2017: Only 797 Germans donated organs after their death (source: German Foundation for Organ Transplantation).

Successes in transplantation medicine

The transfer of organs and tissues is now part of the standard of medical care for the population. However, these are not usually without complications. In particular, the complicated  small intestine  transplant is an extremely risky procedure, while the kidney transplant has the highest success rate with a 1-year survival rate of approximately 90 percent and a 5-year functional rate of 70 percent.

Kidney transplants  are so successful because kidneys can be kept functional outside the organism for a relatively long time after removal, so that the HLA characteristics can be analyzed and compared with the recipient.

In the case of the heart, liver, lungs and  pancreas  , there is not enough time for this typing, so one has to limit oneself to the blood group analysis. Other factors that influence the success of a transplant are primarily the health of the recipient.

Organ failure due to the body’s own defense reaction

The main reason for organ failure lies in the body’s defense reactions against the organ recognized as foreign. Rejection must be suppressed with medication from the start. Despite this measure, the defense reactions against the transplant become stronger over time, so that the foreign organ can be destroyed. It may then be necessary to transplant again.

On the other hand, these  drugs  reduce the  body’s defenses  against infections and malignant diseases or have organ-toxic effects themselves, so that complications can also arise as a result.

Survival and functional rates of organs after transplantation

Below you will find an overview of the survival or functional rates of the various organs after a transplant has been performed.

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