What Organs Can Be Donated?

Organ donation is a practice of donating your organs for transplant. Organ donation is divided into two categories – living and deceased. Anyone with an organ too damaged to work properly can have that organ replaced with the one donated by someone else. It means an organ donation can actually help save a person's life or at least improve the quality of life. If you think you should donate an organ, you should first learn more about the organs that can be donated.

What Organs Can Be Donated?

Donated organs are used during transplantation to help save someone's life, but not all the organs can be donated. Some common organs that can be donated include:

  • Heart: Your heart is a muscular organ with a role to pump blood through the body. It can be donated and helps people suffering from heart failure. It may also help babies born with heart defects.
  • Liver: This large organ secretes bile and helps metabolize fats, carbs, and proteins. It also forms certain blood proteins. Liver transplants help people with liver failure survive.
  • Kidneys: The role of your kidneys is to maintain electrolyte and water balance. It also filters the blood and regulates acid-base concentration in the body. You can donate a kidney and help save someone diagnosed with chronic end-stage kidney disease.
  • Lungs: You have a pair of spongy organs that help provide your body with oxygen while removing carbon dioxide from the blood. People with severe lung disease, such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, and emphysema can be saved through lung transplants.
  • Pancreas: The organ behind your stomach is called pancreas that helps in the digestion of carbs, proteins, and fats. Pancreas can be donated and help people with insulin-dependent Type-1 diabetes.
  • Intestines: Your intestines are the portion of the digestive tract between the stomach and the anus. Someone diagnosed with intestinal diseases such as short-gut syndrome or total parenteral nutrition may survive through an intestine transplant.

Now you know what organs can be donated, but certain organ tissues can also be donated for transplantation. For instance:

  • Heart Valves: When the whole heart is not viable for transplant, your doctor may consider recovering heart valves only. Donated human valves and vessels are used in this case.
  • Upper Body Bone: The radius, humeru, and ulna bones in the arms can be donated for transplantation. A bone transplant may prevent amputation – it also promotes healing, provides structure, and maintains mobility.
  • Veins: Any disease or trauma to veins can cut circulation in the legs or in the heart but donated veins can help restore the circulation and prevent leg amputation in people.
  • Skin: Skin can be donated and used to help severe burn victims. People can donate skin grafts that help promote regeneration of new skin.
  • Bone and Connective Tissue: Donated bone and connective tissues can help people with neurosurgical and orthopedic conditions. A single donor can help improve the quality of life of over one hundred people. These tissues are extremely useful in a number of joint, back, and leg surgeries, such as spinal fusion, knee reconstruction, and hip replacement.
  • Eye: Corneal transplant helps more than 46,000 people restore their sights every year. Interestingly, an eye donor can help more than 10 people. The sclera can also be donated, which helps in ocular graft surgery. Poor eyesight, cataracts, and age do not prohibit eye donation. The cornea can also be donated and helps people undergoing traumatic accidents to the eye or having inherited eye diseases like Keratoconus.
  • Living Kidney Donation: You have two kidneys and you can still live a healthy life even if you choose to donate one. You can donate your kidney to a relative or friend, or to anyone on the waiting list. It can be a matter of life and death for someone.

Types of Donation

Knowing what organs can be donated really helps but you should also have some information about the types of donation. Here are three basic types:

  • Donation after Brain Stem Death (DBD): Most organ donors are usually patients who die because of a severe head injury, brain hemorrhage, or stroke. In this case, brain stem tests help confirm death – these tests have very strict standards and are performed by two experienced doctors. A DBD donor can donate organs such as lungs, heart, and liver.
  • Donation after Circulatory Death: Patients who die but are not on a ventilator are called donors after circulatory death. They can donate their kidneys and some other organs in certain cases. The organs are usually viable for transplantation if they are removed immediately after the heart stops or else they will be damaged due to a lack of oxygenated blood.
  • Living Organ Donation: It usually means that a healthy person chooses to donate an organ to another family member or partner. In this case, it is usually necessary to donate the organ to someone who is related by blood – a parent, sister, brother, or child. However, it is also possible to donate an organ to someone who is unrelated to the patient – this type of donor is called an altruistic donor. The most common type of living organ donation involves donating a kidney because you can live a normal life with only one kidney.