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Term / Organ Transplants

More than 440,000 solid organ transplants have been performed in the United States since the first kidney transplant in 1954. Of the 28,000 organ transplants performed in the U.S. every year, over half are kidney transplants. About a quarter of the transplants performed are liver transplants, will all other organs making up the remaining 25%. The number of transplants performed is limited severely by the availability of donated organs.

Nearly 115,000 patients are currently on waiting lists for one or more life-saving organs – another person is added every 11 minutes. Some of those patients may wait months or years for a suitable donor to be found – others will not survive the wait.

Today, physicians routinely transplant hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, the pancreas, intestine and abdominal wall to treat critically ill patients suffering from organ failure. Organ failure can be the result of a large variety of conditions, including inherited disorders, viruses, vascular disease and autoimmune disease.

Although all transplant patients will require lifelong anti-rejection drugs, closely matched donors and recipients provide the best chance of organ survival and may require less intensive anti-rejection drug therapy.

Anti-rejection drugs suppress the recipient’s immune system to keep it from attacking the transplanted organ as an invader, and must be taken for life to prevent rejection. Suppressing the immune system long term, however, makes the recipient vulnerable to infections and cancers that would not otherwise be a problem. In addition, the drugs themselves have side effects ranging from osteoporosis, appearance changes, cardiovascular disease and kidney damage. The cost of drugs and treatment generally run between $15,000 and $45,000 per year for life.
Stem cell transplants hold great promise for the next big step in organ transplantation: the elimination of the need for anti-rejection drugs.

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According to the National Institutes of Health Medline Plus service, the organs from one donor may help save as many as 50 people. In a message from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS): “Organ and tissue transplants offer patients a new chance at healthy, productive, normal lives and return them to their families, friends and communities. You have the power to change someone’s world by being a donor.

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