Glossary

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ABO (Blood group)
Each individual has a particular blood type that is identified by one of the major blood groups - A, B, O, or AB. Matching of donor and recipient by blood group is essential to organ transplantation.
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Allocation
Distribution of organs and tissues to patients according to a set plan.
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Allograft
Tissue or organ transplanted from one person to another.
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Anoxia
Lack of oxygen to the brain.
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Antibody
A protein produced by the body's immune system that recognizes and helps fight infections and other foreign substances in the body.
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Antigen
A foreign substance that can trigger an immune response, resulting in production of an antibody as a part of the body's defense.
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Artery
A blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body.
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Autograft
Tissue taken from one part of a person's body - piece of the hip bone, for example - and transplanted to another place - the spine - on the same person; the patient is both donor and recipient.
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Autologous
A transfusion or transplant utilizing the patient's own blood, bone marrow or tissue.
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Bone graft
Bone removed from one person and transplanted in another place, either on the same person (autograft) or in another person (allograft bone).
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Bone marrow
Soft tissue that fills the cavities of the bones, and is the source of all blood cells. Bone marrow can be donated and transplanted to help fight cancer and other diseases.
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Brain aneurysm
An abnormal, balloon-like bulging of the wall of an artery. The bursting of an aneurysm in a brain artery or blood vessel can lead to brain death.
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Brain death
The total and permanent loss of all brain function; a medical and legal determination of death.
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Brain stem
The part of the brain closest to the spinal cord that controls involuntary functions like breathing and heart rate.
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Cardiac death
Death resulting from the cessation of heart function; an individual who suffers a cardiac death can donate tissues like bone and skin, but typically cannot donate organs.
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Cardiologist
A physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.
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Cardiovascular
The heart and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries); the circulatory system.
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Coma
A condition of deep and often prolonged unconsciousness; usually the result of disease or injury.
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Congenital
Describes a disease or condition with which someone is born.
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Congestive heart failure (CHF)
A condition resulting from weakness of the heart muscle, which causes the heart to lose its pumping ability. Fluid backs up in the lungs and may also accumulate in the legs.
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Cornea
The clear tissue covering the front surface of the eye that permits light to enter and provides most of the focusing power.
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Coronary artery disease
A build-up of fatty material in the coronary artery that causes narrowing and a decrease in blood flow to the heart.
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Creatinine
Found in the blood, it is a waste by-product of muscle function; creatinine level in the blood is one of the key measures of kidney function.
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Crossmatch
A blood test to determine if a patient has antibodies against a donor's antigens. Positive means the donor and patient are incompatible; negative means no reaction from the patient and the transplant may proceed.
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Cyclosporine
A drug prescribed to help prevent rejection of the transplanted organ by suppressing the immune system. Also known by its product name Sandimmune.
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Deceased Donor
A donor whose organs or tissues are donated after they have been declared dead.
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Division of Transplantation (DOT)
A division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, providing oversight and funding support for the nation's organ procurement, allocation, and transplantation system; coordinates national organ and tissue donation activities and funds research to learn more about what works to increase donation; and administers the national bone marrow registry program.
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Donor card
A legal document that authorizes the donation of organs and tissues at the time of death.
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Emphysema
A lung disease in which the air sacs are enlarged and damaged, impairing breathing and often requiring lung transplantation; most frequently caused by smoking.
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End-stage organ failure
Permanent organ failure for which organ transplantation is almost always the treatment of last resort.
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End-stage renal disease (ESRD)
Severe kidney disease or chronic kidney failure that has reduced the kidney function to 10 percent or less of normal function, requiring the patient to have either dialysis or a transplant in order to live. Also called renal failure.
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Graft
A healthy tissue or organ removed from one site and transplanted to another; a transplant.
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Heart valve
A valve between each of the four chambers of the heart. When working properly, these valves open and close fully to control the one-way flow of the blood; heart valves can be donated and transplanted.
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Hemodialysis
Use of a machine to clean or filter the blood when the kidneys are failing.
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Hepatitis
An inflammation of the liver usually caused by a virus; Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver failure that leads to transplantation.
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Hepatologist
A physician who diagnoses and treats diseases of the liver.
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Human leukocyte antigens (HLA)
Genetic markers found on all cells of the body that determine white blood cell types. HLA tissue types are used to match donated organs or bone marrow with transplant recipients.
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Hypertension
A condition of elevated blood pressure that can lead to kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.
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Idiopathic cardiomyopathy
Disease of the heart muscle with no known cause leading to a weakened and often enlarged heart; one of the principal reasons for heart transplantation.
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Immune system
The components of the body that defend against infection, disease, and foreign substances.
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Immunosuppression
Suppression of the body's natural defense system; is usually necessary to prevent organ rejection.
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Immunosuppressive drugs
Medications developed to suppress the body's normal production of antibodies that fight foreign substances such as transplants, bacteria and infections. Two of the major immunosuppressive drugs include cyclosporine and tacrolimus.
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Immune response
The reaction of the body to foreign substances like a transplanted organ.
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Intestines
Two digestive organs in the abdomen; the small intestines remove nutrients from the food to be used for energy, and the large intestines absorb water from the digested food, and make stool. The small intestine may be transplanted.
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Kidneys
Two organs that filter waste and excess fluid from the blood and passes them out of the body as urine.
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Ligament
A band of fibrous, connective tissue that attaches bone to bone and bone to cartilage, supporting and strengthening the joints. Ligaments are often used as part of a bone transplant to repair knee and other joint injuries.
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Liver
A large organ whose many functions include aiding in digestion, removing toxins from the body, and regulating the chemicals in the blood.
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Living Donor
A person who donates an organ or part of an organ - kidney, liver or lung - while alive to another person, most often a family member.
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Marrow
Soft tissue that fills the cavities of the bones, and is the source of all blood cells. Bone marrow can be donated and transplanted to help fight cancer and other diseases.
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Myth
An improvable story, almost always including incredible or miraculous events, that has no specific reference point or time in history.
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Nephrologist
A physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney.
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Nephron
The tiny filtering units of each kidney that remove the waste and extra fluids from the blood.
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Non-heart beating donor (NHBD)
A term used to describe a patient who donates kidneys and possibly a liver following the cessation of a heart beat at the time of death; this is different from a brain dead donor whose heart is still beating and pumping blood to organs just before donation.
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Organ Donor
A person, deceased or living, who gives an organ or tissue to be transplanted into another person.
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Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)
The national transplant waiting list and organ allocation system established by the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984.
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Organ procurement organization (OPO)
Regional, non-profit organizations responsible for coordinating organ and tissue donations at hospitals throughout the U.S.; all OPOs are designated by the Federal Government to serve specific regions.
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Pancreas
An organ that produces the insulin hormone needed to regulate blood sugar levels, and produces enzymes to aid in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The pancreas can be donated and transplanted typically for diabetic patients who suffer kidney failure.
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Peritoneal Dialysis
A method of dialysis for patients with kidney failure in which fluids are pumped into the abdomen resulting in the removal of wastes from the blood; peritoneal dialysis can be done in the home as opposed to hemodialysis which must be done at a hospital or clinic.
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Persistent vegetative state
A condition in which a patient is unable to speak or follow simple commands and does not respond in any psychologically meaningful way.
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Pulmonary
The lungs and the respiratory system; a pulmonary specialist is a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases.
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Pulmonary fibrosis
Chronic lung inflammation with progressive scarring of the alveolar walls that can lead to death.
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Pulmonary hypertension
Elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries from constriction; causes problems with the blood flow in the lungs, and makes the heart work harder.
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Rejection (organ)
Reaction caused by the immune system attacking a transplanted organ or tissue by the production of antibodies. Immunosuppressive drugs are prescribed to help prevent this reaction.
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Renal
The kidneys; kidney failure is often referred to as renal failure.
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Saphenous vein
A vein from inside the leg that goes from the ankle to the groin. Donated veins are used to help people with vascular disease or who need heart bypass surgery.
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Solid organ
Organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, and liver.
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Stem cell (peripheral)
Immature blood cells that develop into new red and white blood cells, and platelets as they mature. They are located in the bone marrow and blood and can be donated and transplanted.
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Tacrolimus
Also known as FK506 and its product name Prograf, tacrolimus is one of the major immune suppressing drugs used by transplant recipients to prevent organ rejection.
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Tendon
A cord of tough, fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Surgeons use donated tendons to help reconstruct damaged joints.
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Tissue donor
Someone who donates tissues at the time death including corneas, bone, skin, veins and heart valves.
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Tissue bank
An organization that processes, stores, and distributes donated tissue and cells; most are non-profits.
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Tissue typing
A blood test that determines a potential transplant recipient's compatibility with a donor; tissue typing is performed mostly to match donors with recipients of kidney and bone marrow transplants.
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Transfusion (blood)
A replacement of a person's blood or blood products (such as plasma or platelets).
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Uniform Anatomical Gift Act of 1968
Established the organ and tissue donor card as a legal document in all 50 states, making it possible for anyone 18 years or older to donate his or her organs and tissues upon death. This act also bans the sale of organs and tissues.
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United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
A private, non-profit organization based in Richmond, Va., that runs the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, the nation's organ transplant waiting list and organ allocation system; all organ transplant programs and organ procurement organizations in the U.S. must be members of UNOS.
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Ureter
A tube that extends from each kidney and carries urine to the bladder.
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Vein
Blood vessels that carry blood from throughout the body back to the heart.
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Xenotransplant
Transfer of organs or tissue from one species to another species - from animals to humans.
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