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How Are Organs Matched?

When it comes to the process of matching donors to recipients, many factors play a role.

When a transplant hospital accepts a person as a transplant candidate, it enters medical data—information such as the person’s blood type, medical urgency, tissue type and transplant hospital location—about that candidate into the National transplant database. When an Organ Procurement Organization (in this case, LifeSource) confirms consent for organ donation, it enters the donor’s medical data—information such as the donor’s blood type and body size and the location of the donor hospital—into the same National transplant database.

Using the combination of donor and candidate information, the National transplant database generates a list of candidates who would best match the donor. This match is unique to each donor and each organ.

Organs from every donor are matched with people on the waiting list based on:

  • blood type
  • body size
  • how sick they are
  • donor distance
  • tissue type
  • and time on the waiting list

Characteristics such as a person’s ethnicity, gender, religion and financial status are not considered in the matching of organs for transplant because they are not medically relevant. However, a greater diversity of donors has the potential to increase access to transplant for everyone on the waiting list and anyone can register to be a donor.

Once this list is created, the LifeSource coordinator contacts the transplant surgeon caring for the first patient to offer them the organ for their patient. Depending on various factors, such as the donor’s medical history and the current health of the potential recipient, the transplant surgeon determines if the organ is suitable for their patient. If the organ is turned down, the next listed individual’s transplant center is contacted, and so on, until the organ is successfully matched with a patient.

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