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How are donated organs matched with recipients?

When an individual on the donor registry dies in the hospital due to trauma from a car accident, stroke or significant head injuries, the hospital staff will contact a local Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) representative to find matches for viable organs based on the potential recipient's physical location, blood and tissue type, medical urgency and position on the national waiting list.

Organ donation is a lifesaving gift that anyone may choose to give, regardless of age or health status. The national waiting list for organ donations grows much faster than the donor registry, so there is a high need for new donors across the nation. 
Each patient awaiting an organ transplant is listed on a national computerized waiting list that is maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in Richmond, Virginia. This registry contains detailed information about each patient including blood type, degree of medical urgency and other data important for matching donors to recipients. This registry changes constantly as new patients are added to the list, and as other patients either receive a transplant, die waiting, or due to a change in medical condition, are removed from the list. Specific information about each donor, including his or her blood type and body size, are entered into the national computer system. An individualized list is generated for each donor that identifies patients who match for those particular organs. There is a different list generated for each and every donor. Each available organ is allocated according to medical urgency, degree of match to the donor and time waiting. The transplant coordinator then contacts the transplant center where each potential recipient is waiting and provides detailed, confidential information about the donor. The transplant surgeon always makes the final decision about whether or not the donor and intended recipient are a good match.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.