Find definitions for common medical terms used in organ transplantation.
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Antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system. They recognise and fight foreign substances such as germs (bacteria, viruses) or ‘foreign’ tissue types. Certain antibodies in your blood can make it more likely for your body to reject your transplanted organ.
These are substances that cause an immune response in the body.
Anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG)
This can be used to treat rejection, particularly if the patient has rejection that has not responded to intravenous steroids.
Bilateral lung transplant
A transplant operation where a patient receives two lungs. A bilateral lung transplant (BLT) is sometimes called a double lung transplant.
This is when a very small piece of tissue is taken for analysis. It is used to diagnose rejection.
This is the medical terms for scarring of the liver that can happen with long-term liver diseases.
This is a waste product that is removed by the kidneys. Everyone has creatinine in their blood, but high levels indicate that your kidneys aren’t working as well as they should be.
A cross-match test is where your blood is mixed with a sample of the donor’s blood or tissue. This tests whether you have antibodies in your blood that would attack (reject) the donated organ. If you have a lot of antibodies in your blood at the time of the transplant, it is very likely that your body would reject the organ within minutes of the transplant. This type of rejection cannot be treated. Therefore, a positive cross-match test means that the transplant cannot go ahead. Not all organ transplants require a cross-match test.
If your kidneys are not working properly, dialysis can be used to remove waste products and excess fluid from your blood.
A way of creating an access point for haemodialysis. An artery and vein are connected together (usually on your forearm) so it’s easier to insert the needles during dialysis.
A different option for providing access for haemodialysis. A graft is a piece of artificial tubing inserted under your skin, connected to your artery and your vein.
Another way of providing access for haemodialysis. A dialysis line is inserted directly into your vein, with the end of the tube hanging out of you.
This is the person who has agreed to give an organ.
Dual kidney transplant
A transplant when the patient receives two donated kidneys, rather than the usual one.
A type of dialysis where toxins are removed directly from your bloodstream.
During a liver transplant, the main bile duct coming out of the donated liver is joined with your main bile duct. Sometimes, it is not possible to join the two tubes directly. In these cases, a loop of the recipient's small intestine is joined to the main donor bile duct to allow bile to drain from the transplanted liver. This is called a hepaticojejunostomy.
The kidney transplant team will know about the antigens in your tissues (‘tissue type’) and will know how similar your tissue type is to the donor’s. For some patients, especially younger patients who are likely to need more than one transplant in their life, it’s important to have a close match between the donor’s tissue type and the recipient’s. For other patients, especially older patients who are less likely to need a second kidney transplant, this is less important. Modern immune suppressing medications mean that organ transplant rejection is less likely that it used to be. The HLA mismatch is important for kidney transplants, but is much less important for other types of transplant.
Your immune system’s job is to defend your body against microbes or cells that shouldn’t be there. Unfortunately, this means your immune system will misguidedly try to protect you from the transplanted organ by attacking it. This is known as your body ‘rejecting’ the organ.
Immunosuppressants are powerful drugs that weaken your immune system to reduce the chance of it attacking the transplanted organ. All transplant patients need to take immunosuppressants.
Also known as an IV drip. This is when a tube is placed into your vein so liquids, such as fluid or medicine, can be delivered directly into your bloodstream.
This is damage to the bile ducts caused by a lack of blood supply. This can happen as a result of a liver transplant.
A living donor is often a relative or friend who has agreed to give you an organ such as a kidney or part of a liver. They will need an operation to remove it so it can be transplanted into you.
Mechanical circulatory support
This is a machine that helps pump your blood for you. It is used during a heart transplant and may be needed for other types of transplant.
This refers to any medicine you can buy without a prescription, for example in a pharmacy, supermarket or online. It includes paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Paediatric en bloc kidney transplant
If the deceased donor is a very young child, both kidneys from the donor might be transplanted together into the same recipient. This is called a paediatric en bloc kidney transplant.
A type of dialysis where toxins are removed from your blood through the lining of your tummy (abdomen).
A space in the natural lining of your tummy, that can be used to hold filtered fluids during dialysis.
Peritoneal dialysis catheter
A tube inserted into your tummy to provide an access point for peritoneal dialysis.
The natural lining of your tummy.
This is when a transplant fails to function and never starts working.
Rejection is when your immune system starts to attack your transplanted organ because it doesn’t recognise it. Rejection can still occur even if you’re taking all of your immunosuppressant medicines. If rejection is picked up early it can usually be treated successfully. Severe or fatal rejection is less common than it used to be.
Right heart catheterisation
This test provides essential information on whether a transplanted heart will work in your circulation and also helps to assess how badly damaged your heart is.
Single lung transplant
A transplant operation where a patient receives one lung.
Split liver donation
This is when a donated liver is split into two segments and transplanted into two people - usually an adult and a child. This happens in approximately 1 in 10 liver transplants.
A hospital that has a specialist centre where transplant surgery and post-transplant care takes place.
A series of tests that you will need to have to check that you are well enough to cope with having a transplant.
A specialist surgeon who performs organ transplants.