Transplant Medicine is the field of medicine that specializes in the harvesting and transplantation of organs and in the prevention of its rejection. This is field is usually made up of a team of surgeons and various internists. This can include the Transplant surgeon, Cardiovascular surgeon, Urologist, Ophthalmologist, Nephrologist, Cardiologist, Gastroenterologist, Hematologist, Pediatrician, and many other specialists depending on the organ being transplanted.
To date, the following organs can be transplanted:
- Kidneys—kidney transplant is the most common organ that is being transplanted worldwide. Kidney transplant is particularly helpful for patients who have end-stage kidney disease and who are dependent on hemodialysis.
- Heart—heart transplant is done for those who have a structurally defective heart, which functions so poorly that is not expected to sustain the individual for more than a year.
- Liver—liver transplant is usually done for patients with hepatitis, specific types of cirrhosis, or liver cancer.
- Lung—the most common reason for lung transplant is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, a disease that is brought about by chronic heavy smoking.
- Intestines—some intestinal conditions necessitate resection or cutting portions of the intestines that are no longer viable. In some cases, after cutting the nonviable portion, the remaining intestine becomes too short to perform its function. An intestinal transplant might be warranted in these cases to “extend” the length of the remaining intestines. Examples of these conditions are Crohn’s disease, necrotizing enterocolitis, gastroschisis, Hirschsprung’s disease, volvulus, and others.
- Pancreas—a nonfunctioning pancreas, like in the case of Type 1 diabetes mellitus, can lead to serious life threatening complications and can make a patient dependent on insulin. Pancreatic transplant is indicated mainly for Type 1 Diabetes mellitus to prevent its complications and to liberate a patient from insulin dependence.
Tissues can also be transplanted. To date, the following tissues can successfully be harvested from one person and transplanted to another: cornea, skin, bone marrow, tendon, nerve, and vein.
After transplantation, an internist or an immunologist takes care of the organ recipient to make sure that he or she will not have a reaction to the transplanted organ. Organ rejection happens when the immune system of the recipient targets the transplanted organ because it labels it as a foreign body. To prevent this from happening, immunosuppressive medications are given to transplant patients.