On Organ Donation

November 29, 2011

As of October 2011, a reported 112,178 patients in the U.S. were awaiting organ donations and every 11 minutes another individual is added to the waiting list. Though an average of 75 people per day receive organ transplants daily and more than 86 million people in the U.S. are registered as donors, a critical shortage of organs remains. Increasing information about the importance of donation could help to encourage new donors and save lives.

Organs and tissues including heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin, and corneas can all be donated and transplanted. According to experts, the organs and tissue from a single donor could help as many as 50 recipients. There are no age restrictions for donors, and depending on the type of donation, organs may come from a deceased or living donor. Current data indicates that as of October 7, 2011 there had been 113,693 living donors and 143,662 deceased donors since the tracking of organ donation was initiated.

Any individual is eligible to register as an organ donor, though the process for registering varies by state. If an individual who was not a registered donor dies due to massive trauma to the brain or is declared brain dead and cannot be revived, the individual’s family members must authorize the donation of the individual’s organs. Only organs with blood and oxygen flowing through them at the time of donation are viable for transplant, and each must be transplanted within hours to help prevent rejection by the recipient. When organs become available, they must tissue and blood typed to identify the appropriate individual on the transplant waiting list who is a match, as well as ensuring that they are the appropriate size for the recipient.

The recovery of organs for transplant is performed by a team of surgeons, nurses, and the transplant coordinator in the operating room where the donor received care. Just prior to removal, each organ is flushed free of blood and then placed in a sterile container for transportation to the recipient’s transplant center. Organs must be transplanted quickly – hearts and lungs within four hours, livers within 12-18, and kidneys within 24-48 hours of removal from the donor.

The risks associated with receiving an organ transplant are outweighed by the benefits as individuals receiving transplants are those who would not be able to survive without them. Though all organ recipients must take anti-rejection drugs following transplant, reports indicate that 15 percent still suffer some rejection in the first year. In addition, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that though the risk of disease transmission from donated organs is rather small, between 2007 and 2010 more than 200 cases of suspected transmission were investigated. To increase the safety of organ transplants, the CDC has drafted new guidelines for advanced organ testing which would screen for hepatitis B and C as well as HIV.

In 2010, 28,665 organ transplants were performed, but reports indicate that as many as 6,000 Americans die each year while waiting for a transplant. By encouraging individuals to consider registering as donors, it may be possible to save thousands of lives each year.

Follow iCons in Medicine on Twitter or Like iCons on Facebook for daily health and health-IT updates, or discuss this and other health-related topics in the iCons in Medicine forums


On the Importance of Blood Donation

August 15, 2011

According to World Health Organization estimates, a country’s basic requirements for safe blood could be met if one percent of that nation’s population donated blood. The WHO reports that 65 percent of all blood donations are made in developed countries, home to just 25 percent of the world’s population, and in some regions access to safe blood is limited. By ensuring that individuals have an understanding of the blood donation process and the importance of donating, it may be possible to ensure that blood supplies are available able to meet the need.

Image by Deborah ErvinBlood donation has advanced significantly since the first blood transfusion involving a human being was performed in 1667, however the need remains. A reported one in seven people entering a hospital needs blood, and just one pint of blood – the amount obtained during a standard donation procedure – can save up to three lives. Each year, nearly 5 million people in the United States receive life-saving blood transfusions. During surgery, following an accident, or due to a disease or medical condition, individuals may require whole blood or blood components. Whole blood is the most common type of blood donation, during which approximately a pint of blood is given and the blood is then separated into its components. Both platelets and plasma are collected using a process called apheresis, during which the donor is hooked up to a machine that collects the desired blood component and then returns the rest of the blood to the donor. A double red blood cell donation in which only the red blood cells are collected also utilizes apheresis.

In order to be eligible to donate blood an individual must be in good health, at least 17 years old, at least 110 pounds, and able to pass the physical and health history assessment. In addition, before accepting the full donation, the level of iron  is tested in a small sample of blood. All donated blood and blood components are subjected to a number of tests to ensure that they are free of bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, and syphilis. Blood is also tested to determine the blood type (A, B, AB, or O) and Rh factor (either positive or negative) to ensure that it will be provided to compatible donors. Anyone in need of blood can receive type O red blood cells, and individuals with type AB blood can receive any blood type – thus individuals with type O blood are called “universal donors” and those with type AB blood are “universal recipients.”

Despite the need to maintain an adequate blood supply and the simplicity and safety of the blood donation process, reports indicate that younger individuals say they are “too busy” or “too scared” to give blood, and one in five donors under 30 have stopped donating. An estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent donate annually.

Though blood components can be stored – red blood cells for 42 hours refrigerated or up to 10 years frozen, platelets at room temperature for five days, and plasma for up to a year frozen – researchers continue to work to develop a viable synthetic alternative to donated blood. By encouraging people to donate blood and working to find a synthetic blood alternative, it may be possible to ensure that the available blood supply meets the need.

Discuss this and other health topics in the iCons in Medicine forums


Call for Mobility Aid Donated Goods for Haiti Relief

March 2, 2010

iCons in Medicine, under the auspices of its parent company the Center for International Rehabilitation, is seeking donations of Mobility Aids to support ongoing rehabilitation relief efforts in Haiti.

Needed items include Adult and Pediatric Crutches, Walkers, and Wheelchairs

Crutches, Walkers, and Wheelchairs

Details on Criteria for Mobility Aid Donation

Mobility aid donations can be made by individuals, as well as bulk product donations by manufacturers and distributors. Monetary donations for purchase of mobility aids may also be made. For complete instructions, please click the appropriate link below:

Individuals Making Mobility Aid DonationsManufacturers or Distributors Making Bulk Product DonationsMaking a Monetary Donation for the Purchase of Mobility Aids

There are a number of other ways you can help provide support to medical and rehabilitation efforts through iCons in Medicine.

Teleconsultations for HaitiVolunteer on the Ground in Haiti

Airlift from Haiti Join iCons in Medicine