Organ transplants are a necessary treatment when other treatments fail. Although healthcare practitioners might attempt other treatments first, such as infusions or tissue transplants in the early stages, transplants are the final option if the patient does not respond.
Luckily telehealth services facilitate a reduction in organ discard through real-time testing to improve diagnostic study interpretations to help hospitals find viable organs. Board-Certified specialists and subspecialists conduct telehealth testing with transplant case experience. As a result, they aid transplant surgeons in providing dependable results that help see positive outcomes for transplant patients.
For example, telepathology offers real-time allograft selection and assessment of donor/recipient tissue specimens used during the pre and post-phases of transplant surgery. This is a critical, life-saving step in cases where organs are available at medical centers with less experienced doctors. Via telepathology, testing, and interpretation offer input from expert pathologists who can help in the selection and approval process using ancillary techniques and quick diagnoses available through diagnostic teleconsultation.
Telepulmonology also brings pulmonologists to remote ICU locations via teleconferencing to assess lung viability for organ donation. This quick confirmation of interpretations allows transplant hospitals and OPOs to find DCD lungs confidently, increasing the number of transplantable lungs available for waiting patients.
Teleradiology provides real-time interpretations of radiology studies, including MRI, CT, ultrasound, and x-rays, during the organ procurement process, with access to board-certified specialists who can assist with interpretation in transplant cases. Through x-rays, CTs, and ECGs, these remote specialists can test for liver, renal and soft tissue issues, providing reliability for organ donation data through centralized diagnostic study interpretation solutions. As a result, the process significantly reduces organ discards while increasing access for transplant patients.
According to the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), 42,887 patients received organ transplants in the United States in 2022. This is an increase of 3.2% from the previous year. The CDC notes that the most common organ transplants include the kidney, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, and intestines. However, the necessity for organ transplants varies from patient to patient. Here we review reasons transplants might be necessary for these organs.
- Heart Issues
There are approximately 2,000 heart transplants performed in the U.S. each year related to end-stage heart failure or when other treatments fail. A diagnosis of heart failure is made when the heart cannot pump blood normally or is damaged and weak. For example, Ventricular Arrhythmia not responding to medication, ablation procedures, or implantable defibrillators will require a heart transplant. Other reasons include:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
- Severe Congenital Heart Defects
- Kidney Issues
Each year about 3,000 people are added to the kidney donor waiting list. One of the most common causes is diabetic nephropathy. Other reasons include:
- Polycystic Kidney Disease
- High Blood Pressure
Through telemedicine services, diagnostics can be delivered to clinicians, and collaboration can be made for life-saving decisions that ensure kidneys reach patients in time to save lives.
- Liver Issues
There are approximately 8,000 liver transplants in the U.S. each year related to the following issues:
- Alcohol Liver Disease
- Chronic Viral Hepatitis (B, C, and D)
- Autoimmune Hepatitis
- Hepatic Tumors
- Acute Liver Failure
- Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD
- Biliary Atresia
An expert telepathologist diagnosis can biopsy specimens to test for issues such as hepatitis to confirm liver viability for transplantation.
- Lung Issues
In the U.S., there are about 2,000 lung transplants per year. Common reasons include the following:
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD
- Pulmonary Hypertension
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
Telepulmonology provides access to pulmonologists for remote ICU locations to assess lung viability.
- Pancreas and Small Intestine Issues
Patients with type 1 diabetes often need a kidney-pancreas transplant to place both a kidney and a pancreas. When a patient cannot control their diabetes with insulin, a pancreas transplant can often be the only option. Although rare, there were 135 pancreas transplants in 2020. Small intestine transplants are also rare, with about 200 transplants in the U.S. each year. Common reasons include the following:
- Short Bowel / Gut Syndrome
- Intestinal Atresia
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis
Overall Reasons for Organ Transplant
There are varying degrees of risks and limitations inherent to each type of organ recipient, with several overall reasons organ transplants will be considered, including:
- Cancer Treatment: Removing cancerous organs from the patient is a first-line treatment method, although total organ removals are not. An -ectomy surgery is potentially curative when cancer is localized to a single organ. They are also sometimes done as a preventative measure, such as pre-emptive mastectomies to prevent breast cancer.
- Severe Pathogenic Infections: When severe infections put organs at risk of destruction, such as hepatitis, myocarditis, or acute pancreatitis, patients can be added to the organ waiting list while undergoing temporary interventions.
- Congenital Disorders and Long-Term Chronic Illnesses: Many congenital disorders and chronic illnesses lead to a high risk of organ failures, such as Cystic fibrosis, Eisenmenger syndrome, and Alagille’s syndrome.
- Autoimmune Conditions: Autoimmune conditions localized to specific body parts can lead to organ failures, such as Autoimmune interstitial lung disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, and autoimmune pancreatitis. Transplants are the best treatment option when attacking a vital organ such as the heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys.
- Pollutants and Environmental Toxins: International environmental protection agencies classify five categories of toxic substances that can accumulate and damage tissue and increase the risk of organ failure.
- Addiction and Substance Use Disorders: Substance abuse can lead to liver, lung, heart, kidney, and pancreatic failure.
- Chronic Stress, Cortisol-Induced Organ Failure: Stress can cause organ failure or exacerbate the damage caused by other conditions impacting the heart, pancreas, GI tract, and digestive system organs.
- Severe Organ Trauma: Severe penetrating organ trauma caused by injuries, accidents, and violence can lead to lethal complications and require organ transplants.
Telepathology aids OPOs and empowers healthcare centers to discover viable organs quickly. This far-reaching care network ensures that even the most remote medical practices have 24/7 access to biopsy results and extends the procurement reach of OPOs. As a result, more organs are procured, and more lives are saved.
Streamlined, Accurate Organ Transplant Facilitation
At Specialist Direct, we quickly diagnose and interpret the results of medical studies, helping solve OPO diagnostic problems. Our solutions empower organ procurement groups to reach better outcomes. Ready to streamline organ procurement for your team? Contact us and sign up for a free consultation today.