What are my risks if I receive a donated organ?

Penn Medicine
Accepting a donor organ from another human being has several risks; the most common potential risks are primary non-function, rejection, infection and cancer. All transplant donors are screened very carefully prior to donation to minimize these risks.

On occasion, an appropriate donor may become available whose past history places them at a slightly increased risk for viral infections, such as HIV, or hepatitis B or C. Hospitals are required by law to inform candidates if a donor becomes available that is considered high risk based on criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for transmission of disease, including:
  • Persons with history of non-medical injections of drugs
  • Persons with clotting factors disorder who received human-derived clotting factor concentration
  • Men who had sex with another man in the last five years
  • Persons who have had sex with any of the above people
  • Person who has been exposed to suspected HIV-infected blood/tissue in the past 12 months
  • Inmates of correctional systems
While these are the risk factors noted by the CDC at this time, excluding these factors does not mean people are risk free from transmission of disease. All donors are screened prior to donation based on current screening practices. It is unlikely, but possible, that the screening may fail to detect a very early infection and an infection could be transmitted through the transplant.

Continue Learning about Organ Transplants & Health Care

Organ Transplants & Health Care

Organ Transplants & Health Care

Organ transplants involve removing a diseased organ from an ill patient and replacing it with a healthy one from an altruistic deceased or living organ donor. To be eligible for an organ transplant, you must be evaluated by a medi...

cal team for suitability. If you decide to become an organ donor, it is important to inform your family and put those wishes in writing.

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.