Numerous technical advances in kidney transplant surgery and anti-rejections medicines have produced very good success rates for kidney transplants. However, there are more people waiting for a kidney than there are kidneys being donated. This means you must remain on a waiting list, sometimes for several years, until a kidney that matches becomes available.
All patients accepted by a kidney transplant program are registered on the national organ transplant waiting list. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) maintains a centralized computer network linking all organ procurement centers (OPO) transplant centers.
The kidney transplant center must place you on the national waiting list. You are officially on the list when your kidney transplant nurse coordinator or doctor confirms it. It is imperative that you follow all prescibed treatment carefully while waiting for a new kidney.
The Matching Process
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) describes the process:
When a kidney becomes available, the local OPO accesses the UNOS computer system, enters information about the donor organs, runs the match program and coordinates the surgical recovery team.
This program generates a list of patients ranked according to objective medical criteria such as blood type, tissue type, size of the organ and patient's medical urgency. Other factors include time spent on the waiting list and distance between the donor and the kidney transplant center.
The computerized matching process locates the best possible matches between donated organs and the patients who need them, but the final decision to accept an organ rests with the patient's transplant program team.
A new list is generated for each time a kidney becomes available.
As you never know when a donor will be available for you, it is important that you stay in constant contact with your coordinator. So you can be reached immediately when it is your turn to receive a donor kidney, contact the kidney transplant center immediately if any of the following change:
- Telephone number or cell phone number
- Emergency contact information
- Insurance coverage
- Physical condition
- Medical condition, such as blood transfusions or start or change dialysis