What kinds of organ donors are there?

In addition to the gift of solid organ transplants (heart, lung, liver, kidneys, pancreas, small intestine), donors can donate their tissue (skin, bone, tendons, veins) and eyes/corneas to help others. Living donors can also donate one of their kidneys or a portion of their livers to matching recipients. These are known as "living donor transplants."

There are living donors and deceased donors.

Deceased donations require prior consent from the potential donor or from the donor's family. Some states allow the medical examiner to provide consent, in the case of an unclaimed body. So far, deceased donations outnumber living donations.

Organ donations after a cardiac death are the least common type of transplant from deceased donors. When a donor dies, organs must be removed quickly, then packaged and transported. In a cardiac death, organs begin losing function quickly. This can result in imperfectly matched donations - making it a scramble to find a suitable match for the organs.

Brain death is declared when there is no function, electrical activity, or blood flow in the brain and the condition is thought to be irreversible. When brain death occurs, it is possible to sustain organ function. Because of this, more donations are made in brain death cases. Such cases offer time to find matches for the organs and to prepare for organ removals, while maintaining their functional capacity. Being an organ donor has no bearing regarding the medical considerations or medical care the brain-dead patient receives.

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery
This depends on the organ being considered. For kidneys, basically there are living and deceased donors. Within the deceased donor category there are standard brain dead donors and non-heart beating donors which are slightly higher risk.

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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.