The Transplantation Process
The process of organ transplantation can be very confusing, but it helps to inform yourself as soon as possible. Here are some quick summaries of what you can expect from different stages of the process.
Before the Transplant
An organ may become available at any time of the day or night. We keep a file of all telephone numbers where patients may be reached. Please inform the transplant center of any changes so that we may contact you when necessary.
Patients usually do not return to the hospital until the actual transplantation surgery. Any needed tests can be scheduled by the patient's primary doctor or, in the case of kidney transplants, through the candidate's dialysis facility. The transplant coordinator makes sure all needed tests are completed.
After a person is accepted, they are listed with the United Network of Organ Sharing.
The allocation of organs differs depending on the organ involved. For example, kidney allocation is based upon a point system which takes into account time on the waiting list, the degree of antigen match (how well the organ matches the patient) and blood type compatibility.
An organ may become available at any time, but because of the ongoing shortage of donor organs in this country, potential recipients may be on waiting lists for a year or more.
Because there are many emotional issues for potential transplant recipients and their families, UMMC has an active patient educational series. This series meets in person each month and is open to everyone on the waiting list, as well as all patients who have already received transplants. All issues related to transplant can be discussed in this trusting, caring atmosphere.
In the case of kidney and liver patients, the identification of possible living donors is an important part of the pre-transplant screening process. We encourage family members, spouses and friends to consider making this most precious gift.
The transplant coordinator can answer specific questions about living donations.
Day of the Transplant
Donated organs must be transplanted within a very short time. Patients are notified as soon as an organ is available to allow them sufficient time to travel to the Medical Center.
Transplant patients go to the main admitting office at the Greene Street entrance. Admitting Office staff are notified in advance of the patient's arrival and will be prepared to help with the admitting process.
Patients are greeted and directed to either Same Day Surgery or the transplant inpatient unit. On the unit, a history is taken of any medical events which may have occurred since the initial transplant evaluation. Blood tests are also done to ensure the patient's readiness for surgery.
Patients are asked to bring only basic necessities to the hospital when they are admitted for the transplant surgery. After surgery when the patient is recuperating, the family may bring comfortable clothing -- pajamas or sweat suits -- and a small amount of money for incidentals.
The transplant surgery itself is performed in one of the Hospital's main operating rooms. The length of time for each procedure depends on a number of factors, including the patient's condition and the organ which is being transplanted.
Following surgery, patients are taken to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit or the transplant unit in the hospital's Homer Gudelsky Building. They are closely monitored to ensure that their bodies are accepting the new organ and that they are experiencing no ill effects of the immunosuppressive medications.
To complete their recovery, patients move to rooms on a surgical unit. Here, transplant nurses and physicians monitor the patients' progress and prepare them for leaving the hospital. Patients learn about the medications they will take for the rest of their lives and how to take them correctly. They also learn how to recognize signs of organ rejection.
How long the patient stays in the hospital depends on many factors, including the patient's general health before surgery and the type of transplant surgery performed. For example, kidney recipients generally stay five to 10 days; pancreas or liver recipients stay approximately 10 to 14 days.
After the Transplant
When patients are ready to leave the hospital, their prescriptions will be filled by the hospital pharmacy. Hospital staff will also arrange for a visiting nurse to come to the patient's home to answer questions and assure that medications are being taken properly.
There are many questions related to the transplant that recipients and their families will have, and providing information and support is a crucial part of our program. For the rest of their lives, all transplant recipients have 24-hour-a-day access to a transplant coordinator for any questions, problems or issues related to the transplant.
Transplant coordinators may be reached at the Transplant Office, 410-328-5408.
To ensure a rapid and complete recovery, transplant recipients return to the University of Maryland Medical Center once a week for four to six weeks following transplantation. Their first outpatient appointment at the Transplant Clinic is made before they go home from the hospital.
Patients visit the Transplant Clinic often during these first weeks to make sure medications are precisely adjusted for their individual needs.
After this initial period, patients are asked to alternate visits between the Transplant Clinic and their referring physician. These visits will continue for the rest of the patients' lives.
At each visit, blood tests are conducted to closely monitor the patient's progress. Patients are seen by a transplant coordinator and a transplant physician. Patients are given a brief physical examination. Any necessary changes in medications are discussed, as well as any patient concerns. Social workers and dietary staff are also available to provide information and answer questions.
The Transplant Program Office can be reached at 410-328-5408.
To speak with someone about our services, please call 410-328-5408 or 1-800-492-5538.