Many people are asking questions and surfing the internet to see if they are eligible for organ transplant. We hope this post will answer some of those questions for you as a potential transplant candidate.
Right now more than 115,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant, and every 10 minutes someone new is added to the waiting list. Unfortunately, there are not enough organs donated each year to transplant everyone waiting, so transplant centers have an obligation to use these precious available organs in the most responsible way possible. Most centers have criteria to evaluate each potential candidate to be sure their transplant is safe and successful.
The majority of patients who complete a full evaluation at a transplant center become candidates for transplant, yet not everyone who needs an organ is placed on the national waiting list. You can read more about what it means to be listed in our previous blog post. There are several factors that the care team considers when determining if patients are eligible for transplant. As patients, some of these factors we can control and some we can’t, but all are important in assuring you a quality outcome after transplant.
There is no official age cutoff for transplant. At Mayo Clinic, we have successfully transplanted some patients in their 70s, but age can play a factor in being approved by your transplant center. As we age, our bodies become frail, and we often experience more medical issues. Transplant centers evaluate patients for their degree of frailty and their potential to recover well and improve their quality of life after transplant. If you are an older patient, you may need more extensive testing to determine if transplant is right for you.
Major Medical Conditions
During your transplant evaluation, all of your body systems will be evaluated. Doctors choose patients for transplant who have no heart or lung issues, no active cancers (outside of the liver or kidney), and no other major health conditions, because the immunosuppressive drugs you take to suppress your immune system could cause other medical conditions to worsen.
During your transplant evaluation, you will meet with a social worker to help you understand the support system needed for transplant. They will explain to you why it is important to have one or more caregivers who can be with you throughout the transplant process. Having friends and family around to help you before and after transplant is critical to your success. A caregiver is usually required to be listed on the waiting list.
If you have issues with substance abuse, to be eligible for transplant your care team will likely ask you to stop substance use such as cigarettes and alcohol. Even if your care team doesn’t ask you to quit smoking, your recovery and time in the hospital could be far more pleasant if you do. If you are looking at a transplant down the road, consider quitting any substance use prior to your evaluation.
If you are undergoing evaluation for transplant, it is important to understand your insurance coverage and your financial situation. Time away from home and work can be expensive, and insurance doesn’t always cover everything we need. If you are being considered for transplant, your care team wants to be sure you have the resources to cover the medications and care post-transplant to ensure you don’t encounter financial hardship.
These are just a few topics to consider when researching your eligibility for transplant surgery. If you are in need of a transplant, be sure to connect with a transplant center for more information about their requirements and processes.
Have you had your transplant evaluation? What were some criteria you had to meet in order to be listed for transplant?