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Organ Donation Matching Process: How Does it Work? October 28, 2022

There are many reasons to consider organ donation. In addition to helping others and filling a critical need, you can save numerous lives. In fact, every donor can save eight lives and enhance more than 75 more. Most often, individuals who are on an organ transplant waiting list are close to the end of their life if an organ donor isn’t readily available.

Organ donation can save the lives of these individuals and drastically affect their quality of life in a positive way. When considering organ donation, it’s important to educate yourself on the organ donation myths and facts. Additionally, understand how the organ donation matching process works.

 

Organ Donation Matching Process

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (ODTN), makes organ matches. OPTN is a public-private partnership that links all professionals involved in the U.S. donation and transplantation system. It also runs the national database of patients waiting for a transplant in the United States. Policies control how the system matches donor organs to patients on the waiting list.

Common factors for the matching process include:

  • Blood type
  • Body size
  • Severity of the patient’s medical condition
  • Distance between the donor’s and the patient’s hospital
  • Patient’s waiting time
  • If the patient is available
  • If the patient has an infection or other reason that they can’t do the transplant

The most significant factor is the organ itself. Some organs can survive outside the body longer and there’s a different policy for each organ. Donated organs require special methods of preservation to keep them viable, between the time of procurement and transplantation.

Here are the common maximum organ preservation times:

  • Heart and lung: 4-6 hours
  • Liver: 8-12 hours
  • Pancreas: 12-18 hours
  • Kidney: 24-36 hours

 

How Organ Allocation Works

Before an organ is allocated, all transplant candidates on the waiting list that are incompatible with the donor are automatically screened from any potential matches. Next, the computer application determines the order that the other candidates will receive offers according to national policies.

Other factors for organ allocation include:

  • Geography: There are 57 local Donation Service Areas and 11 regions that are used for U.S. organ allocation. Hearts and lungs have less time to be transplanted, so OPTN uses a radius from the donor hospital, instead of regions when allocating those organs.
  • Correct-sized organ: Proper organ size is critical to a successful transplant, which means that children often respond better to child-sized organs. Although pediatric candidates have their own unique scoring system, children largely are first in line for other children’s organs.
  • Blood type and other medical factors: These are considered in the allocation of every donated organ. However, there are other factors unique to each organ-type. For a kidney, waiting time and donor/recipient immune system capability are imperative. Medical need and how far from the donor hospital are key components for a heart and liver donation. Medical urgency and weight time are other major factors for a lung donation.

 

Organ Donor Matching System

There’s a specific process for the organ donor matching system. It begins when transplant hospitals accept patients onto the waiting list. At that point, the patients are registered in a centralized, national computer network that links all donors and transplant candidates.

The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is a vital link in the organ transplant process. Its policies and computerized network match donated organs with transplant candidates. The matching criteria, which was developed by the transplant community and approved by the OPTN Board of Directors, are programmed into UNOS’ computer matching system.

UNOS assists with the matching, sharing and transportation of organs, via this computer network. Transplant centers, tissue typing laboratories and Organ Procurement Organizations are involved in the organ sharing process. The UNOS Organ Center is staffed 24 hours a day throughout the year.

When donor organs are identified, the procuring organization typically:

  • Accesses the computerized organ matching system
  • Enters information about the donor organs
  • Runs the match program

 

Give the Gift Of Life

Give the gift of life through organ donation. Right now, 105,659 people need an organ transplant. This year, 15,646 donors led to 31,711 transplants. Organ Donation and Transplant Association of America (ODTAA) is a non-profit organization that helps save lives by educating people about becoming an organ donor.

To raise awareness, ODTAA provides information and facts to individuals who want to donate part of themselves or a financial donation to help another person. Save lives by registering as an organ donor and/or making a financial contribution.