Organ Transplant Glossary



Absorption – The degree and speed at which a drug enters the bloodstream from the small intestine. See Bioavailability.

Acute Rejection – The body’s attempt to destroy the transplanted organ; usually occurs in the first year after transplant.

Acute tubular necrosis (ATN) – Reversible kidney damage resulting in delayed kidney function. Among other factors, it may be caused by quality of donor organ, time of organ storage before transplantation, or medications administered to prevent rejection.

Administrative Fee – An amount of money charged by an organization that is handling your fundraising money.

Adverse Reaction – An unintended effect from a drug.

Advocacy Organization – A group that helps an individual get what he or she needs or wants; a group that promotes a certain point of view, or pleads the case of another.

Allocation – The process of determining how organs are distributed. Allocation includes the system of policies and guidelines, which ensure that organs and tissues are distributed fairly to those waiting.

Allograft (allogeneic graft or homograft) – A graft between 2 individuals who are of the same species (eg, human) but have genetic differences.

Anti-Rejection Drugs (immunosuppressive drugs) – Drugs that are taken to help the body accept the transplanted organ.

Antibody – A protein substance made by the body’s immune system in response to a foreign substance, for example a transplanted organ, blood transfusion, virus, or pregnancy. Because the antibodies attack the transplanted organ, transplant patients must take powerful anti-rejection (immunosuppressive) drugs.

Antigen – A foreign molecule or substance, such as a transplanted organ, that triggers the body to try to destroy it. This response may be the production of antibodies, which try to destroy the antigen (the transplanted organ).

Arteriogram – An X-ray of an artery after a dye has been injected.

Ascites – Build-up of fluid in the abdomen, usually associated with liver disease.

Atherosclerosis – The disease in which plaque builds up on the inner walls of the arteries, causing narrowing or blockage that can lead to heart attack. Commonly known as “hardening of the arteries.”

Autograft – Tissue or bone transplanted from one site on an individual’s body to another site.


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B cell A specialized white blood cell responsible for the body’s immunity. B cells play a central role in antibody production.

Beneficiary – The person who receives the benefits of an insurance policy.

Benefits – Paid for services of an insurance policy.

Bioavailability – A measure of how much of an administered drug is absorbed into the bloodstream in order to reach the intended site of action in the body. See Absorption.

Biopsy – A tiny piece of tissue from the body is removed (usually with a needle) and examined under a microscope. This procedure is used to diagnose rejection of the transplanted organ.

Bladder – The part of the urinary tract that receives urine from the kidneys and stores it until urination.

Blood vessels – The arteries, veins and capillaries through which blood circulates. Blood vessels can be donated and transplanted.

Bone – Dense tissue that forms the skeleton. Bone can be donated and transplanted.

Bone Marrow – Soft tissue located in the cavities of bones. Bone marrow is the source of all blood cells. Bone marrow can be donated and transplanted.

Brain Death – Occurs when a person’s brain activity stops permanently, as determined by the physician. It is impossible to return to life after brain death. Artificial support systems (machines) may maintain functions such as heartbeat and breathing for a few days, but not permanently.

BUN – BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen, a waste product normally excreted by the kidney. Your BUN value is one of the tests that may indicate how well the kidneys function.


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Cadaveric donors – Also called, non-living donors, are those who donate their organs or tissue after they have been declared brain dead.

Cadaveric Transplant – See deceased donor transplant.

Candidate – A person who is waiting for a transplant.

Cardiac – Having to do with, or referring to, the heart.

Cardiologist – A physician who specializes in the care of the heart.

Center of Excellence – An insurance term for a medical center that will negotiate a discounted price even if that center is not part of the insurance’s company’s PPO network.

Cholesterol – A fatty substance that comes, in part, from certain foods you eat. When too much cholesterol builds up in the body, it can lead to atherosclerosis.

Chronic – Developing slowly and lasting for a long time, possibly the rest of a person’s life. For example: chronic kidney failure.

Chronic Rejection – Slow, continuous failure of the transplanted organ.

Cirrhosis – A disease of the liver in which normal, healthy tissue is replaced with nonfunctioning tissue and healthy, functioning liver cells are lost; usually occurs when there is a lack of adequate nutrition, an infection or damage caused by alcohol abuse.

Coalition on Donation – A non-profit alliance of health and science professionals, transplant patients and voluntary health and transplant organizations. The national coalition works closely with local coalitions to increase public awareness of the critical organ shortage and create a greater willingness and commitment to organ and tissue donation (

COBRA – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) requires most employers with group health plans to offer employees the opportunity to continue temporarily their group health care coverage under their employer’s plan if their coverage otherwise would cease due to termination, layoff, or other change in employment status (referred to as “qualifying events”).

Coinsurance – A percentage of money that you must pay toward a service that your insurance will pay. A very typical amount is 20%; you pay 20% of the doctor’s bill and your insurance pays the other 80%.

Connective tissue – Forms the supportive and connective structures of the body.

Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis – See Peritoneal Dialysis.

Co-payment (Co-pay) – A flat fee that a person pays for health care services. in addition to what the insurance company pays. For example: a $10 “co-payment” for each visit to the doctor’s office.

Cornea – The transparent outer coat of the eyeball that covers the iris and pupil. Corneas can be donated and transplanted.

Corticosteroid – A synthetic hormone, or hormones secreted by the adrenal gland, which stop the body’s normal reaction to infection and foreign tissue, such as a transplanted organ. Prednisone is a corticosteroid.

Coverage Date – The day that your insurance benefits begin.

Covered Benefit– A service or supply that an insurance company will provide payment toward.

Covered Service – See covered benefit.

Criteria (Medical Criteria) – A set of standards or conditions that must be met.

Critical Care Unit– See intensive care unit.

Crossmatching – A blood test done before the transplant to see if the potential recipient will react to the donor organ. If the crossmatch is “positive,” then the donor and patient are incompatible. If the crossmatch is “negative,” then the transplant may proceed. Crossmatching is routinely performed for kidney and pancreas transplants.

Cyclosporine – A drug used to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ by suppressing the body’s defense system. Considered an immunosuppressant.


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Deceased – Refers to things about or relating to the dead. For example: deceased donor, a person who has been declared brain dead and whose family has agreed to offer one or more organs for transplantation.

Deceased Donor Transplant – The transplant of an organ from a deceased donor.

Deductible – A fixed amount of money you must pay for covered health care expenses before the insurance company starts to pay. This is usually a yearly amount, such as $250, $500, $1000 or more.

Delayed Function – A condition in which the transplanted organ does not work well right after the transplant. Many kidneys have a delay before they begin to function well. Kidneys can sometimes take as long as three weeks to “wake up.” Sometimes a kidney recipient needs dialysis until the kidney starts to work.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – This department of the federal government is responsible for health-related programs and issues (

Dependents – Those persons who also receive insurance benefits on your policy. Examples: spouse and children.

Depilatory – A cream or spray put on the skin to dissolve and remove excess hair.

Dialysis – A mechanical process which works to correct the balance of fluids and chemicals in your body and to remove wastes of patients whose kidneys have failed. (See “hemodialysis” and “peritoneal dialysis”.)

Diastolic Blood Pressure – The bottom number in your blood pressure (80 in a blood pressure of 120/80). Indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.

Disability (disabled) – A person who is considerably limited in major life activities and who cannot be helped with the use of a corrective device or medication. Someone who is unable to perform the necessary functions of a job with or without a reasonable modification.

Disability Determination Service – A state agency that will review your eligibility for vocational rehabilitation.

Disability Insurance – Provides you with an income if illness or injury prevents you from being abler work for an extended period of time.

Division of Transplantation (DoT) – The office of the Federal government whose principal responsibilities include the management of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) and the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) contracts; public education to increase organ/tissue donation; and technical assistance to organ procurement organizations (OPOs). See the DoT’s Web site at

Donation – Is the act of giving one’s organs or tissue to someone else.

Donor – Someone from whom an organ or tissue is removed for transplantation.

Donor Card – A card, usually wallet sized, that indicates your wishes to be an organ donor.

Durable Power of Attorney – A legal document in which you may name someone to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.


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Edema (water weight) – Swelling caused when your body retains too much fluid.

End-Stage Organ Disease – A disease that leads, ultimately, to functional failure of an organ. Some examples are emphysema (lungs), cardiomyopathy (heart), and polycystic kidney disease (kidneys).

End-stage renal disease / Chronic Kidney Failure (ESRD) – A very serious and life-threatening kidney disease that minorities suffer much more frequently than do Whites. ESRD is treatable with dialysis, however, dialysis is costly and can result in a poor quality of life for the patient. The preferred treatment of ESRD is kidney transplantation. Transplantation offers the patient “freedom” from dialysis to lead a more normal lifestyle and can successfully treat ESRD for many years.

Ethnicity (Formerly Race) – For OPTN data purposes, the use of categories such as White; Black or African-American; Hispanic; Asian, or Native Hawaiian; or Other which includes American Indian, Alaskan Native, Mid-East or Arabian, or Indian sub-Continent.

Evidence of Insurability – Proof that you are healthy enough for a particular insurance company to provide you with insurance.

Exclusion – Medical services that are not paid by an insurance policy.

Experimental – New treatments, procedures, or drugs that are being tested. Insurance companies do not usually pay for anything that is considered experimental.


Federally Mandated – Required by federal law.

Foreign Body – An organ or tissue that does not normally belong where it is, such as a transplanted organ. Your body normally tries to attack foreign bodies.

Foundation – A fund that pays for the permanent maintenance of an institution.

Fulminant – Happening very quickly. Example: fulminant liver failure.

Fungus – A parasitic plant that cannot make its own food and is dependent on other life forms.


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Gastroenterologist – A physician who specializes in the care of the digestive tract.

Gender – The particular sex of an individual – male or female.

Genetic – Referring to heredity, birth or origin.

Genetic Matching – See tissue typing.

Gingival Hypertrophy – Enlargement of the gums. It can be controlled by good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups.

Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) – A measurement of kidney function, used to determine the severity of kidney disease.

Glucose – A type of sugar found in the blood.

Graft – A transplanted organ or tissue.

Graft Survival – The percentage of patients who have functioning transplanted organs (grafts). They are usually measured in one, three and five years time periods.

Grant – An amount of money given as a gift, usually for a specific use.

Group Health Plan – See group insurance.

Group Insurance – Typically offered through employers, although unions, professional associations, and other organizations also offer group insurance. Much, if not all of the premium is usually paid by the employer.


Harvest – The act of surgically removing an organ or tissue for transplantation; now referred to as “recover” rather than “harvest”.

Heart – A muscular organ that pumps blood through the body. The heart can be donated and transplanted.

Heart valves – A tissue that prevent the back flow of blood into the heart. The heart valves can be donated and transplanted.

Health and Human Services (HHS) – This department of the federal government is responsible for health-related programs and issues ( See also Department of Health and Human Services.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) – An insurance plan where you or your employer pay a fixed monthly fee for services, regardless of the level of care. You must usually see your primary physician to be referred to a specialist.

Helper T cell – The specialized white blood cell that helps stimulate other parts of the immune system to combat infection or foreign material.

Hemodialysis – A treatment for kidney failure where the patient’s blood is passed through a machine to remove excess fluid and wastes. The procedure usually takes about three to four hours per session and is usually done about 3 times per week.

Hemorrhage – A rapid loss of a large amount of blood; excessive bleeding.

Hepatic – Having to do with, or referring to, the liver.

Hepatitis – Inflammation of the liver; can lead to liver failure.

Hepatologist – A physician who only treats patients with liver diseases and conditions.

High Blood Pressure (hypertension) – When the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels is higher than normal because the blood vessels have either become less able to stretch or have gotten smaller. High blood pressure causes the heart to pump harder to move blood through the body. High blood pressure can cause kidney failure and heart disease if not treated.

Hirsutism – An excessive increase in hair growth. It is a common side effect of some drugs and can be controlled with waxing, hair removal creams or shaving.

Histocompatibility (HLA System) – The examination of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) in a patient, often referred to as “tissue typing” or “genetic matching.” Tissue typing is routinely performed for all donors and recipients in kidney and pancreas transplantation to help match the donor with the most suitable recipients to help decrease the likelihood of rejecting the transplanted organ.

HLA (human leukocyte antigens) system – Genetically determined series of antigens that are present on human white blood cells (leukocytes) and tissues. See Tissue typing.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – The virus destroys cells in the immune system, which makes it difficult for the body to fight off infections; toxins, or poisons; and diseases. HIV causes AIDS, a late stage of the virus characterized by serious infections, malignancies and neurologic dysfunctions.

Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) – Molecule found on cells in the body that characterize each person as unique. These antigens are inherited from your parents. In donor-recipient matching, HLA determines whether someone will accept an organ from a donor.

Hypertension – See High Blood Pressure.


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Immune response – The body’s natural defense against foreign objects or organisms, such as bacteria, viruses or transplanted organs or tissue.

Immune System – The organs, tissues, cells and cell products in your body that work to find and neutralize foreign substances including bacteria, viruses and transplanted organs.

Immunosuppression – Prevention or suppression of immune response. Transplant patients receive immunosuppressive drugs in order to prevent graft rejection.

Immunosuppressive – Relating to the weakening or reducing of your immune system’s responses to foreign material; immunosuppressive drugs reduce your immune system’s ability to reject a transplanted organ.

Immunosuppressive Drugs – Chemical agents that cause the human body not to produce antibodies that normally fight off foreign material in the body. The production of these antibodies needs to be suppressed in order to permit the acceptance of a donor organ by the recipient’s body.

Infection – A condition that occurs when a foreign substance, such as bacteria, enters your body, causing your immune system to fight the intruder. All transplant recipients can get infections more easily because their immune systems are suppressed. It is more difficult for them to recover from infection (such as urinary tract infections, colds and the flu).

Inflammation – The swelling, heat and redness your body produces when it has an injury or infection.

Informed Consent – The process of reaching an agreement based on a full disclosure and full understanding of what will take place. Informed consent has components of disclosure, comprehension, competence and voluntary response. Informed consent often refers to the process by which one makes decisions regarding medical procedures including the decision to donate the organs of a loved one.

Inpatient Treatment – When you are treated in the hospital with at least an overnight stay.

Insurance Benefits – Services paid by an insurance company.

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – A unit in the hospital that has highly technical and sophisticated monitoring devices and equipment.The staff is specially trained and educated.

Intestines – The portion of the digestive track extending from the stomach to the anus, consisting of upper and lower segments. The intestines can be donated and transplanted.

Intravenous (IV) – Literally, into or within a vein; also refers to fluids and medications that are injected into a vein through a needle or catheter.

Intravenous (IV) – Within a vein or veins; usually refers to medication or fluids that are infused into a vein through a plastic catheter inserted into the vein.

Investigational – A drug or procedure that is not yet Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved for marketing. Insurance companies normally do not pay for investigational drugs or procedures.


Kidneys – A pair of organs that maintain proper water and electrolyte balance, regulate acid-base concentration, and filter the blood of metabolic waste, which is excreted as urine. Kidneys can be donated and transplanted.


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Legislation – A law or group of laws proposed or enacted that have the force or authority of a state or Federal government, or other organization.

Leukocyte – A white blood cell.

Lifetime Cap – See lifetime maximum.

Lifetime Maximum – The total amount of money your insurance company will pay out for your covered expenses during your lifetime. Typical amounts are $150,000, up to 5 million dollars. Apt all insurance plans have a maximum amount. Once you have reached your lifetime maximum, you will no longer have insurance benefits. It is very important for you to be aware of how your insurance dollars are being spent.

Living related donor (LRD) – A blood relative who donates an organ.

Liver – The largest gland in your body, made up of a spongy mass of wedge-shaped lobes. The liver secretes bile, which aids in digestion, helps process proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and stores substances like vitamins. It also removes wastes from the blood. The liver can be donated and transplanted. A living donor can give part of their liver, after which the liver will regenerate itself in both the donor and recipient.

Living Donors – Are persons who donate a kidney, part of a lung or part of a liver while they are still alive.

Lungs – A pair of two spongy organs that remove carbon dioxide from the blood and provide it with oxygen. The lungs can be donated and transplanted.


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Mail-order Pharmacy – A pharmacy that operates in another area. You call the pharmacy to reorder your meds and they ship them to you by mail, UPS or Federal Express, usually monthly or every 3 months. These pharmacies are often less expensive and many have staff who are very knowledgeable about anti-rejection drugs.

Managed Care – A term used to describe insurance programs that try to control health costs by limiting unnecessary treatment. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and point-of-service (POS) plans and utilization review are all forms of managed care.

Match – The compatibility between the donor and the recipient. The more appropriate the match, the greater the chance of a successful transplant.

Medicaid – A partnership between the Federal government and the individual states to share the cost of providing medical coverage for recipients of welfare programs and allowing states to provide the same coverage to low-income workers not eligible for welfare. Programs vary greatly from state to state.

Medically Necessary – A specific health care service or supply which your insurance company has determined is required for your medical treatment and is also the most efficient and economical way to provide that service or supply. Examples would be performing a minor surgical procedure in the doctor’s office instead of an overnight hospital stay or renting instead of buying a piece of medical equipment.

Medicare – The program of the Federal government that provides hospital and medical insurance, through social security taxes, to people age 65 and over, those who have permanent kidney failure and certain people with disabilities.

Medigap Policy (medsupp, medicare supplementary) – Private insurance that helps cover some of the gaps in Medicare coverage.

Middle-ear – Contains three small bones, or ossicles, known because of their shapes as the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The ear is the organ of hearing and equilibrium. The middle-ear can be donated and transplanted.

Mortality – Death (mortality rate = death rate)

Multiple Listing – Being on the waiting list at more than one transplant center.


National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) – Passed by Congress in 1984, NOTA outlawed the sale of human organs and initiated the development of a national system for organ sharing and a scientific registry to collect and report transplant data.

Nephrologist – A physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases and conditions.

Non-Function – A condition in which a transplanted organ fails to “wake up” (work) after being transplanted into a recipient, meaning that the recipient will either have to go on dialysis or undergo another transplant. Non-function is rare (about two percent of all kidney transplants).

Noncompliance – Failure to follow the instructions of the medical team, like not taking medication properly or not attending clinic appointments. Noncompliance can lead to the failure of a transplanted organ.


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OPO Local Area – Each OPO provides its organ procurement services to the transplant programs in its area. An OPO’s local service area can include a portion of a city, a portion of a state or an entire state. When an organ becomes available, the list of potential recipients is generated from the OPO’s local service area. If a patient match is not made in that local area, a wider, regional list of patients waiting is generated.

OPO Service Area – Each OPO provides organ procurement services for transplant centers in a given area within the U.S. An OPO service area can include a portion of a city, a portion of a state, an entire state or several states. OPOs distribute organs according to an established allocation policy.

Organ – A part of the body made up of tissues and cells that enable it to perform a particular function. Transplantable organs are the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and intestines.

Organ Donation – To give an organ, such as a kidney or a portion of the liver, lung, intestine to someone in need of that organ and/or to decide that at time of death, your family has permission to donate your healthy organs to people in need of them.

Organ Preservation – Donated organs require special methods of preservation to keep them viable between procurement and transplantation. Without preservation, the organ will deteriorate. The length of time organs and tissues can be kept outside the body vary depending on the organ, the type of preservation fluid, and the preservation method (pump or cold storage). Common preservation times vary from two to four hours for lungs to 48 hours for kidneys.

Organ Procurement – The removal or retrieval of organs for transplantation.

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) – In 1987, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act that mandated the establishment of the OPTN and Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The purpose of the OPTN is to improve the effectiveness of the nation’s organ procurement, donation and transplantation system by increasing the availability of and access to donor organs for patients with end-stage organ failure. Members of the OPTN include transplant centers, Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), histocompatibility laboratories, voluntary healthcare organizations and the general public. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) operates the OPTN under contract with the Federal government.

Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) – OPOs serve as the vital link between the donor and recipient and are responsible for the identification of donors, and the retrieval, preservation and transportation of organs for transplantation. They are also involved in data follow-up regarding cadaveric organ donors. As a resource to the community OPOs engage in public education on the critical need for organ donation.

Out of Pocket Expenses – The portion of health costs that must be paid by the insured person per year, including deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. After this amount is paid, the insurance company pays benefits at 100 percent.

Outpatient Care (ambulatory care) – Medical testing or treatment that is done without an overnight hospital stay. Can be done in a hospital setting or a doctor’s office.


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Pancreas – Irregularly shaped gland that lies behind the stomach and secretes pancreatic enzymes into the small intestines to aid in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Islet cells within the pancreas secrete glucagon, which regulates blood sugar levels and insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels. If the pancreas fails, the individual becomes diabetic, and may need to take insulin. The pancreas can be donated and transplanted.

Panel Reactive Antibody (PRA) – The percentage of cells from a panel of donors with which a potential recipient’s blood serum reacts. The more antibodies in the recipient’s blood, the more likely the recipient will react against the potential donor(s). The higher the % PRA, the lower the chances of finding a compatible organ. For example, a patient with a PRA of 80% will be incompatible with 80% of potential donors. Kidney patients with a high PRA are given priority on the waiting list.

Peritoneal dialysis – Technique that uses the patient’s own body tissues inside of the belly (abdominal cavity) to act as a filter. The intestines lie in the abdominal cavity, the space between the abdominal wall and the spine. A plastic tube called a “dialysis catheter” is placed through the abdominal wall into the abdominal cavity. A special fluid is then flushed into the abdominal cavity and washes around the intestines. The intestinal walls act as a filter between this fluid and the blood stream. By using different types of solutions, waste products and excess water can be removed from the body through this process.

Pool – A group of people.

Potential transplant recipient – A transplant candidate who has been ranked by the OPTN computer match program as the person to whom an organ from a specific cadaveric organ donor is to be offered.

Pre-authorization (Pre-certification) – The process of notifying and getting approval from your insurance company before you proceed with an elective (non-emergency) medical procedure. If your insurance plan requires pre-certification, and you do not obtain it, your share of the cost win be higher.

Pre-existing Condition – Any disease, illness, sickness, or condition which was diagnosed or treated by a Provider within 12 months before your the start date of your insurance coverage. Also, anything that caused symptoms in those 12 months that would cause most people to seek medical care.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) – A group of hospitals or physicians who have made a contract with a particular insurance company to provide care to their members, usually at a discounted charge. If you have a PPO type insurance plan, your share of the cost is usually lower if you use one of these designated providers.

Premium – Amount paid to an insurance company for providing medical or disability coverage under a contract.

Private Health Plan – An insurance policy obtained by an individual, not through an employer.

Procurement – The act of recovering a donated organ or tissue.

Pulmonary – Having to do with, or referring to, the lungs.


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Recipient – A person who receives an organ or tissue transplant.

Recipient – A person who has received a transplant.

Recovery (Organ) – The surgical procedure of removing an organ from a donor.

Rejection – Rejection occurs when the body tries to attack a transplanted organ because it reacts to the organ or tissue as a foreign object and produces antibodies to destroy it. Anti-rejection (immunosuppressive) drugs help prevent rejection.

Renal – Having to do with, or referring to, the kidneys.

Required Request – Hospitals must tell the families of suitable donors that their loved one’s organs and tissues can be used for transplant. This law is expected to increase the number of donated organs and tissues for transplantation by giving more people the opportunity to donate.

Retransplantation – Due to rejection or failure of a transplanted organ, some patients receive another transplant after having returned to the waiting list.

Retrieval – The surgical procedure of taking an organ from a donor.

Risk Pools – State-created, nonprofit associations that do not require tax dollars for operational purposes. The risk pools are a temporary stopping place for individuals who are denied health insurance for medical reasons. Risk pools often help individuals who, because of their physical condition, are unable to purchase health insurance at any price.


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Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) – In 1987, Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act that mandated the establishment of the Organ procurement and Transplantation Network and SRTR. The purpose of the SRTR is to provide ongoing research to evaluate information about donors, transplant candidates, and recipients, as well as patient and graft survival rates. University Renal Research and Education Association (URREA) operates the SRTR under contract with the Federal government. The SRTR contains historical data from October 1, 1987 to present. The registry also tracks all transplant patients from the time of transplant through hospital discharge, and then annually, until graft failure or death.

Second Opinion – A medical opinion provided by a second physician or medical expert, after one physician provides a diagnosis or recommends surgery to an individual.

Sensitized – When a potential recipient has antibodies in their blood, usually because of pregnancy, blood transfusions or previous rejection of an organ transplant. Sensitization is measured by panel reactive antibody (PRA). Highly sensitized patients are less likely to match with available donors and more likely to reject an organ than unsensitized patients.

Side Effect – An unintended reaction to a drug.

Skin – The tissue forming the external covering of the body. Skin can be donated and transplanted.

Social Security Administration – A Federal government program best known for its retirement benefits. The Social Security Administration also administers disability benefits. Salary and the number of years covered under this program determine the dollar amount of monthly benefits.

Spend Down – For disabled people who have higher incomes but cannot pay their medical bills. Under this program, a person pays a part of their monthly medical expenses (the spend down), then Medicaid will step in and pay the rest. Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Status – A code number used to indicate the degree of medical urgency for patients awaiting heart or liver transplants. Examples: status 1, status 2 or status 3.

Steroids – Naturally occurring substances found in your body which include hormones that help control important bodily functions. Synthetic or man-made steroids can be used to suppress your immune system.

Supplemental Policy (Medigap Policy) – Offered by private insurance companies, not the government. These policies are designed to pay for some of the costs that Medicare does not cover. These policies have limited coverage for medicine costs.

Survival Rates – Survival rates indicate what percentage of patients are alive or grafts (organs) are still functioning after a certain amount of time. Survival rates are used in developing OPTN policy. Because survival rates improve with technological and scientific advances, developing policies that reflect and respond to these advances are expected to also improve survival rates.

Systolic Blood Pressure – The top number in your blood pressure (the 120 in a blood pressure of 120/80) measures the maximum pressure exerted when the heart contracts.


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T cell – A white blood cell responsible for the body’s immunity. T cells can destroy cells infected by viruses, graft cells, and other cells altered from normal (eg, cancer).

Tendon – Tough tissue that connects a muscle with a bone.

Termination of Benefits – Health insurance benefits win stop when the individual has reached the lifetime maximum amount, or when the individual is no longer eligible for the plan due to non-payment of premiums or having left or lost a job. Also see COBRA.

Thoracic – Referring to the heart, lungs or chest.

Tissue – An organization of a great many similar cells that perform a special function. Examples of tissues that can be transplanted are blood, bones, bone marrow, corneas, heart valves, ligaments, saphenous veins, and tendons.

Tissue Typing – blood test that helps evaluate how closely the tissues of the donor match those of the recipient.

Transplant Centers – Hospitals or medical centers that perform organ and/or tissue transplants.

Transplantation – The transfer of cells, tissues, or organs from an area of the body to another of from one organism to another.

Transplantation, allogeneic (allograft) – Transplantation between genetically different members of the same species. Nearly all organ and bone marrow transplants are allografts. These may be between brothers and sisters, parents and children, or between donors and recipients who are not related to each other.

Transplantation, autologous – Transplantation of an organism’s own cell or tissues; autologous transplantation may be used to repair or replace damaged tissue; autologous bone marrow transplantation permits the usage of more severe and toxic cancer therapies by replacing bone marrow damaged by the treatment with marrow that was removed and stored prior to treatment.

Transplantation, xenogeneic (xenograft) – Transplantation between members of different species; for example, the transplantation of animal organs into humans.

Transplant Learning Center (TLC) – An innovative lifestyle management program for transplant recipients, developed by an advisory board of transplant professionals and supported by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.

Transplant, Transplantation – To transfer a section of tissue or complete or partial organ from its original position to a new position. For instance, transferring a healthy organ from one person’s body to a person in need of that organ.


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United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) – The transplant community is joined under a nationwide umbrella: The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a nonprofit charitable organization, administers and maintains the nation?s organ transplant waiting list under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Located in Richmond, Virginia, UNOS brings together, under that contract and on behalf of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), medical professionals, transplant recipients and donor families to develop organ transplantation policy. The U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) helps ensure the success and efficiency of the U.S. organ transplant system.

U.S. Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) – A database of posttransplant information. Follow-up data on every transplant are used to track transplant center performance, transplant success rates and medical issues impacting transplant recipients. Under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), UNOS facilitates the collection, tracking and reporting of transplant recipient and donor data.

Usual and Customary (U&C) Fee – The fee that providers of similar training and experience charge for a service in a particular geographical area. If your provider charges more than the U&C fee, your insurance might only pay up to the U&C amount, and you might be responsible for the rest of the fee.


Varices (esophageal) – Enlarged and swollen veins at the bottom of the esophagus, near the stomach. A common condition caused by increased pressure in the liver. These veins can ulcerate and bleed.

Vascular – Referring to blood vessels and circulation.

Ventilator – A machine that “breathes” for a patient when the patient is not able to breathe properly.

Virus – A group of tiny organisms capable of growing and copying themselves while living within cells of the body.


Waiting List (waiting pool) – After evaluation by the transplant physician, a patient is added to the national waiting list by the transplant center. Lists are specific to both geographic area and organ type (heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, intestine, heart-lung, or kidney-pancreas). Each time a donor organ becomes available, the UNOS computer generates a list of potential recipients based on factors that include genetic similarity, blood type, organ size, medical urgency and time on the waiting list. Through this process, a “new” list is generated each time an organ becomes available that best “matches” a patient to a donated organ.

Waiting Period – A period of time when you are not covered by insurance for a particular problem, such as a pre-existing condition.


Xenograft – An organ or tissue procured from a different species for transplantation into a human.

Xenotransplantation – Transplantation of an animal organ into a human. Although xenotransplantation is highly experimental, many scientists view it as an eventual solution to the shortage of human organs.

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