How Donation Works

The process of organ and tissue donation is a coordinated effort between hospital staff and the Center for Donation & Transplant.  Our teams work together to make sure that each step of the process is done with sensitivity, care and respect for every patient and every family that we work with.

1The hospital identifies and refers potential donors: When a patient meets certain clinical criteria the hospital informs CDT.

2CDT staff determines if the patient can be a donor: CDT staff work in conjunction with the care team at the hospital to do an evaluation of the patient.  Evaluating a patient includes a review of medical history and suitability for donation.

3Determining authorization for donation: If the patient appears to be a candidate for organ and/or tissue donation, CDT’s family services team, who have specialized backgrounds in bereavement and grief, will provide support to the patient’s family or next of kin, and discuss the donation options in a caring and compassionate manner. If a patient has not previously given his/her authorization for donation by signing up on the state donor registry, the patient’s family or next-of-kin must give their authorization in order for the donation process to proceed. If the family authorizes donation, the legal next-of-kin signs a donor authorization form.

4Medical maintenance of the patient: Once authorization is obtained, CDT staff work with the hospital care team to maintain the patient medically and ensure that their organs are healthy for transplantation.

5Placing organs to recipients: CDT staff make information available about the organs to transplant centers through a website maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).  UNOS works to ensure the placement of donor organs is safe, confidential and fair.  The UNOS computer system matches the donor organs to potential recipients and matches are based on blood type, body size, medical urgency and length of time on the waiting list. The heart, liver and lungs are matched by blood type and body size. In matching the pancreas and kidneys, genetic tissue type is also considered.  Once the recipients are identified, the CDT coordinator begins to make arrangements for transplant teams to get to the donor hospital for the recovery.

6Organ recovery: The recovery process is always done in the sterile, calm and respectful environment of the operating room.  Transplant teams work together during the recovery process and, after recovery, bring the organs back to their transplant centers where the recipients are prepared for the transplant surgery.

7Final arrangements: After the recovery, the donor family is able to make final arrangements, which would not be impacted by organ or tissue donation.

8Donor family after care: CDT has designated staff that work specifically with donor families during and after the donation process.  Our Family Services Coordinators follow up with families and send resources and materials to help with the grieving process.