Organ donation is the process of Retrieving or Procuring an organ or tissue from a living or deceased person, called a Donor. The process of recovering organs is called Retrieval. This organ is transplanted into the Recipient who is suffering from organ failure and needs an organ replacement to survive.
Medical Science has made tremendous progress in recent times in the field of organ donation and transplantation, with organ donation from one person capable of saving up to 9 lives and improving the lives of many others.
However, due to the prevalence of myths surrounding organ donation, and the lack of awareness about the topic in India, a majority of people do not take up this noble cause for the benefit of others.
Brain death is crucial to the process of organ retrieval and transplantation. That’s why it’s important to understand what exactly it is. It is a legal form of death. It’s just that no one has bothered to tell us about it, or explain what it is.
Which Organs & Tissues Can Be Donated?
Let’s take a closer look at the different organs that can be donated by a person after death and while the person is still alive. There are eight organs that can be donated and transplanted:
- Kidneys: Both kidneys can be donated by a deceased donor. The functioning lifespan of a transplanted kidney is about nine years. Of all organs, kidneys are the most in demand and the most frequently donated. Most diseases that affect the kidneys affect both at the same time. A living donor can easily donate one kidney to someone and function well for the rest of their lives.
- Liver: The liver is an important organ with primary functions of bile production & excretion; excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs; metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates; enzyme activation; storage of glycogen, vitamins and minerals; synthesis of plasma proteins; blood detoxification and purification. The liver is the only organ that can grow cells to regenerate itself. A deceased donor liver can be split into two and transplanted into two different people. A living donor can have a portion of the liver removed, and the remaining portion will regenerate to almost its full previous size.
- Heart: A heart is a muscular organ which pumps blood through the human body. In the course of an average lifetime, heart will beat for about 2.5 billion times and keep the blood running in our body. Once removed from the donor’s body, a heart can only survive for about four hours.
- Lungs: Single or double-lung transplants can be performed from deceased donors. Additionally, living donors can donate a single lobe from the lungs, though it will not regenerate.
- Pancreas: A deceased donor pancreas can be transplanted into an ailing patient. A living donor can also donate a portion of the pancreas and still retain pancreas functionality.
- Intestine: After death, a donor can donate their intestine. Although quite rare, a living donor can donate a portion of the intestine.
In addition to organs, you can also donate tissues such as corneas, skin, bones, ligaments, heart valves etc.
Which Tissues Can Be Donated?
Tissues are composed of layers of cells that function together to serve a specific purpose. They must be donated within 6 hours of death.
- Cornea: One of the most commonly transplanted tissues each year is the cornea. It is a transparent covering over the eye and is the eye’s primary focusing component. A cornea transplant restores sight to recipients who suffer from corneal blindness and who have been blinded by an accident, infection or disease. Corneas can be transplanted whole or in parts and require no anti-rejection drugs in the recipient. Corneas from a 75-year-old donor are just as effective as younger corneas.
- Bones: Donated bones can be used to replace cancerous bones in the arm or leg in lieu of amputation.
- Skin: Among its many uses, skin can be used as dressing material for burn victims or for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction
- Veins: Donated veins are used in cardiac bypass surgery.
Other donated tissues include tendons, ligaments, muscles, heart valves and cartilage.