More promotional campaigns and training on organ donation, especially renal transplant are being carried out in the last few years but to encourage more people to give the gift of life through organ donation, some questions need to be answered.
Renal transplant has become the treatment of choice for most patients with end-stage renal disease. Compared to other organ donation types, renal transplant is relatively easy for sustaining the donor's health in the post-surgery period. Three main questions are usually raised on kidney transplant: "When is a kidney transplant needed?" "Who can be a living donor?" and "What do kidney donors need to know before and after the operation?"
The body digests the food and liquid intake separately and uses them according to its needs. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood that is eliminated in urine. Renal failure refers to the loss of kidney function and they no longer function as they should.
In the advanced stages of chronic renal failure, kidney transplant is necessary because high levels of waste buildup in the body. Until a suitable donor is found, the patient receives hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis (PD).
Sources of donor kidneys
An important distinction between kidney transplants and other types is that donor kidney can be received from living donors. Kidney transplant numbers are comparatively higher than the others as the donor can healthily continue their life after the surgery.
Living related donors are generally the first donor category including the blood relatives of the recipient like parents, children or siblings. It is still possible to find kidney donors among the recipient's fourth degree relatives such cousins or grandchildren of siblings. Although it is not mandatory, kidney donors' blood type should be compatible with the recipient as it is an important factor in the surgery's success.
In the case of no matching kidney recipient in the family, the cross-transplant system is applied in which the kidney is transplanted to another family recipient and the patient can receive an organ from a living recipient in another family. The third choice is deceased donors who suffered brain death. The families of these patients make the decision to donate the organs or the patient gives consent prior to their death.
The post-operative period is what the recipients need to be properly informed on next. The patients are generally hospitalized from one-to-three weeks after the surgery.
Their life goes back to normal in this period but the first six months are critical to sustain their health. The main reason is that the body becomes more sensitive and they can be faced with various infections.
In chronic renal failure, patients suffer from loss of appetite yet they regain their appetite following surgery as the kidneys restart to function as normal. They possibly gain weight and look healthier yet, because the kidneys begin to deal with more waste products, infection risk can remain at least the until the patient has fully recovered.
Another risky aspect of organ transplant is the rejection of transplanted organs, which are recognized as foreign agents by the recipient's immune system. The immune system protects the body from harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens.
The system can regard the transplanted organ as a foreign agent and try to combat it. To minimize the immune system's possible response, the recipient regularly takes certain medicine that put pressure on the immune system. The system never forgets the donor organ is a part of the recipient's body and rejects it unless medicine intake halts. Drug intake is intense in the first six months but the physician can review it after this period.
Organ transplant in Turkey
Organ transplant is often the only treatment for end state organ failure and the living donor is required to give consent on the use of their organs for another patient's treatment. In Turkey, anyone aged over 18 who is mentally capable and able to consent voluntarily can be an organ donor.
Every year, from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, the Organ Donation Week is marked to promote organ donation nation-wide.
To donate an organ, the donor can apply to all state and private hospitals as well as community clinics and health directorate. The donor is given a card upon giving consent and they are registered on the health ministry's organ and tissue transplant data base.
If the donor's brain death occurs than the donor card is not enough to continue the process as the family's consent is also requested. For kidney transplant, a living donor and the recipient undergo a series of physical and laboratory examinations at nephrology clinics. If all examinations are found positive, the recipient does not have to wait his turn on the list as the surgery can be scheduled as soon as possible.
According to the recent figures, the number of living organ donors has increased in the last two years.
For the renal patients unable to find a living donor, they submit necessary information to the organ transplant center they are registered and put on the waiting list of deceased donors. In Turkey, there are more than 100,000 patients with renal failure taking dialysis treatment. One of 10 percent of these patients is registered on a kidney transplant list to find a suitable donor. There are around 6 million renal failure patients and more than 3,000 patients underwent kidney transplant last year.