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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transplantation Glossary


Allograft - An organ or tissue transplanted from one individual to another of the same species, i.e. human to human.

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

Antigen - A foreign molecule or substance, such as a transplant, that triggers an immune response. This response may be the production of antibodies.

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


Brain Stem Death - The phrase used to describe the establishment of death following irreversible destruction of the brain stem.


Compliance - The act of following orders and adhering to rules and policies, i.e. taking one's medication post transplant.

Cross-match - A test for patient antibodies against donor antigens. A positive cross-match shows that the donor and patient are incompatible. A negative cross-match means there is no reaction between donor and patient and that the transplant may proceed.

Cyclosporin - A drug used following organ transplantation to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ by suppressing the immune system.



End-stage renal disease (ESRD) - End-stage renal disease/chronic kidney failure. A condition for which patients need dialysis or a transplant.



Graft - See allograft, autograft, xenograft.


Histocompatibility Antigens - Molecules found on all nucleated cells in the body that characterize each individual as unique. These antigens are inherited from one’s parents. Human leukocyte antigens determine the compatibility of tissues for transplantation from one individual to another.

HLA System - Human Leukocyte Antigens. There are three major genetically controlled groups HLA-A, HLA-B and HLA-DR. In transplantation, the HLA tissue types of the donor and recipient are taken into consideration in matching. See Tissue Typing.


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

Immunosuppression - The artificial suppression of the immune response, usually through drugs, so that the body will not reject a transplanted organ or tissue. Drugs commonly used to suppress the immune system after transplant include prednisone, azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporin, OKT3 and ALG.




Legislation - The laws that govern organ donation and transplantation.




Organ Preservation - Between procurement from a donor and transplant, organs require special methods of preservation. The length of time that organs and tissues can be kept outside the body vary, depending on the organ, the preservation fluid and the temperature.

Organ Preservation Time:

  • Heart 4-6 hours
  • Liver 12-18 hours
  • Kidney 48 hours
  • Heart-lung 4-6 hours
  • Lung 2-4 hours
  • Pancreas 12-18 hours


PRA - Panel Reactive Antibody. The percentage of cells from a panel of donors with which a potential recipient’s blood serum reacts.



Rejection - When the body tries to get rid of a transplanted organ or tissue by making antibodies. Immunosuppressive drugs help prevent rejection.

Renal - Kidney related.

Re-transplantation - Due to organ rejection or transplant failure, some patients return to the waiting list.


Sensitisation - Potential recipients are "sensitised" if there are antibodies in their blood, usually because of pregnancy, blood transfusions or previous rejection of an organ transplant.

Survival Rates - Survival rates indicate the percentage of patients or grafts (transplanted organs) that are still alive/functioning at a certain point post transplant. Survival rates are often given at one-, three-, and five-year increments.


Tissue Typing - The examination of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) in a patient. Tissue typing is done for all donors and recipients in kidney transplantation to help match the donor and recipient.

Transplant List - After evaluation a patient is added to the national transplant list by the transplant centre. When a donor organ becomes available, the computer generates a list of potential recipients based on factors identified within the organ allocation schemes.


UKTSSA - The old name for UK Transplant, UK Transplant Support Services Authority



Waiting List - What is now known as the Transplant List


Xenograft - An organ or tissue removed from a different species for transplantation into a human.

Xenotransplantation - Transplantation of the [genetically modified] organs of one species into another. Although xenotransplantation is an experimental procedure, many scientists view it as an eventual solution to the critical shortage of human organs.



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