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The Organ Donor

Organ donation is considered a gift of life.

A typical organ donor is a person who has died from a traumatic injury to the brain such as a stroke, aneurysm or in a car accident. Brain death is declared only after strict medical criteria are met, and then only by a physician not involved in the transplantation process.

Once brain death criteria are fulfilled and family permission is granted, lungs and other organs can be procured. Lungs are very sensitive and deteriorate rapidly, so great care must be taken during the donation process.

In the United States, local Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) manage the donor process based on UNOS guidelines. The OPO for Inova Fairfax Hospital is Washington Regional Transplant Community WRTC).

The transplant team and OPO representatives are dedicated to finding the most acceptable match for each recipient. Unfortunately, due to UNOS regulations, we are unable to release donor-specific information to the recipient or his or her family at the time of transplant. There is a UNOS-approved process to facilitate contact between the recipient and donor's family after transplantation.

Technical requirements for donor suitability are exacting to help ensure the best match possible. General donor guidelines include age (less than 65); absence of significant lung disease, including asthma; limited cumulative cigarette smoking history (less than 30 pack-years); satisfactory bronchoscopic appearance without evidence of aspiration; clear lung fields on CXR; adequate oxygenation (PaO2>300 on FiO2 of 100%), and acceptable lung compliance (elasticity).

Criteria which may exclude a donor's donation include viral infections such as HIV, encephalitis and hepatitis, untreated septicemia or primary lung infection, malignancy other than primary unmetastasized brain tumor and current IV drug use.

The donor and recipient should at least match by blood type and thoracic size dimensions. Size is generally gauged by donor and recipient height, since height is the strongest determinant of lung volumes.