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Once again, straight from A Patients Guide to Transplantation...

As you learn more about transplantation, your vocabulary will begin to expand rapidly. We have attempted to define many of the terms frequently used in transplantation. This is just a sampler. When you don’t understand what a word or phrase means – especially when you hear it from your transplant team – ask!

Acute: having severe symptoms and a short course.

Acute Rejection: the body’s attempt to destroy a transplanted organ – usually occurs within the first year after transplant.

Adverse Reaction: see Side Effect.

Allocation: the system of distributing donated organs and tissues to patients in need of a transplant.

Allograph: an organ that is removed from a donor to be used in another person.

Anemia: a condition characterized by too few red blood cells in the bloodstream, resulting in insufficient oxygen to tissues and organs.

Antibody: a protein that is produced by the body’s immune system when it detects a foreign substance, such as a transplanted organ.

Antibiotic: a drug used to fight bacterial infections.

Antigen: a substance, such as a transplanted organ, that can trigger an immune response. This immune response may be the production of antibodies.

Anti-Rejection Drug: see Immunosuppressant

Arteriogram: an x-ray of the arteries taken with the aid of a dye, sometimes referred to as angiography.

Ascites: accumulation of fluid in the stomach, usually associated with liver disease.

AST: acronym for the American Society of Transplantation (formerly the American Society of Transplant Physicians).

ASTS: acronym for the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.

Bacteria: microscopic organisms that invade human cells, multiply rapidly and produce toxins that interfere with normal cell functions.

Beta Blockers: a class of drugs that lower blood pressure.

Bile: fluid produced by the liver that is transported to the intestines to help digestion and remove waste products.

Bile Ducts: passageways in and from the liver that transport bile.

Bilirubin: a substance in bile that is produced when the liver processes waste products. A high bilirubin level causes yellowing of the skin.

Biliary Cirrhosis: slow, progressive scarring of the bile ducts in the liver.

Biopsy: removal of tissue for examination under a microscope.

Bone Marrow: spongy tissue in the cavities of large bones, where blood cells are produced.

Brain Death: the condition when the brain has ceased functioning, as determined by the medical team. Cadaveric organs usually are recovered from persons declared brain dead.

Cadaveric Organ: an organ from a person who has been declared brain dead.

Candidate: a person who is waiting for a transplant.

Cardiac: relating to the heart.

Catheter: a small, flexible plastic tube inserted into the body to administer or remove fluids.

Chronic: persisting for a long time.

Chronic Rejection: slow failure of a transplanted organ.

Cirrhosis: irreversible scarring of the liver. Can be caused by a variety of conditions.

Coagulation: relating to the process of clotting, usually the body's system of controlling bleeding.

Compliance: the process of a patient following the instructions of his transplant center, especially regarding his medication regimen.

Cornea: the transparent outer coat of the eyeball. Corneas can be donated and transplanted.

Corticosteroid: see Steroid.

Crossmatch: a test for recipient antibodies versus donor antigens. A positive crossmatch means the recipient and donor are incompatible. Crossmatching is routinely done for kidney and pancreas patients.

Cyclosporine: a drug commonly used after organ transplantation to suppress the immune system of the recipient and prevent rejection of the transplanted organ by the immune system.

Dialysis: a mechanical process of cleaning the blood of patients with kidney failure.

Diastolic: the bottom number of a blood pressure reading measuring the heart at rest.

Distension: a visible protrusion of the abdomen.

Diuresis: significantly increasing the production of urine.

Department of Transplantation (DOT): the office of the federal government whose principal responsibilities include management of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) and the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP).

Donor: someone from whom an organ or tissue is used for transplantation.

Donor Card: a card that states a person’s wishes to be an organ and/or tissue donor.

Edema: abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body which causes swelling.

Encephalopathy: confused, fuzzy or slowed thinking when the liver is not functioning properly. At its extreme, it can result in coma.

End Stage Organ Disease: a disease that leads to permanent failure of an organ.

End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD): failure of the kidneys requiring the patient to need dialysis or a kidney transplant for survival.

Fulminant: happening very quickly and severely.

Gallbladder: a small pocket that stores bile.

Gastrointestinal: relating to the stomach and intestines.

Genetic Matching: see Tissue Typing.

Gingival Hypertrophy: enlargement of the gums as a side effect of certain medications, especially cyclosporine.

Glucose: a type of sugar in the blood.

Graft: a transplanted tissue or organ.

Harvest: a term, often offensive to donor families, used to describe retrieval of a donor organ. See Recovery.

HCFA: acronym for the United States Health Care Finance Administration. HCFA provides funding for federal health care related programs, such as Medicare.

Health and Human Services (HHS): the department of the federal government who is responsible for health-related programs and issues.

Heart: the organ that pumps blood received from the veins into the arteries, thereby supplying the entire circulatory system.

Hemodialysis: a treatment for kidney failure where a patient’s blood is passed through a machine to remove excess fluid and wastes.

Hemorrhage: excessive bleeding.

Hepatic: relating to the liver.

Hepatitis: inflammation of the liver.

HHS: see Health and Human Services.

High Blood Pressure: a condition where the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels is higher than normal.

Hirsutism: excessive increase in hair growth.

HLA Antigens: Human Leukocyte Antigens. Molecules found on cells in the body that characterize each person as unique. In donor-recipient matching, HLA determines whether an organ from one person will be accepted by another.

Hypertension: see High Blood Pressure.

Immune System: the body's natural defense mechanism against invasion by foreign bodies. In transplantation, the transplanted organ is considered a foreign body and the recipient’s immune system will naturally want to defend against it through rejection of the organ.

Immunosuppressant: a drug that is taken to help the body accept a transplanted organ by suppressing the immune system.

Immunosuppression: the artificial suppression of the immune response, usually through drugs, so that the body will not reject a transplanted organ or tissue.

Intestine: the portion of the digestive system extending from the stomach to the anus.

Intravenous: into a vein – usually refers to medication or fluid that is infused into a vein through a catheter.

Jaundice: yellowing of the skin and eyes. A sign that the liver or bile duct system is not working normally.

Kidney: one of a pair of organs that remove waste from the body through the production of urine.

Liver: the largest internal organ. The liver removes toxic substances from the blood, secretes bile into the bowel to aid in digestion, and helps process proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, among other vital functions.

Lung: one of a pair of respiratory organs functioning to supply oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide.

Multiple Listing: being on the waiting list at more than one transplant center.

Noncompliance: failure of a patient to following the instructions of his transplant center, especially regarding his medication regimen.

National Organ Transplant ACT (NOTA): the law passed by Congress in 1984 which outlawed the sale of human organs and initiated the development of a national system for organ sharing and a scientific registry to collect and report transplant data.

Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN): the nationwide network responsible for organ procurement, allocation and distribution. The OPTN consists of UNOS and many OPOs throughout the United States.

Organ Procurement Organization (OPO): a local organization that coordinates organ procurement (retrieval, or recovery) activities within a designated area. OPO activities include evaluating potential donors, discussing donation with surviving family members, arranging for surgical removal and transport of donated organs and educating the public about the need for donation.

Pancreas: the long, irregularly shaped gland which secretes pancreatic fluid into the lower end of the stomach to aid in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Platelets: the smallest elements in the blood – needed to control bleeding.

Preservation: special methods of keeping a donated organ viable between procurement and transplantation.

Procurement: see Recovery.

Prognosis: the predicted or likely outcome.

Protocol: the plan of treatment.

Pulmonary: relating to the lungs.

Recipient: a person who has received a transplant.

Recovery: the removal or retrieval of organs and tissues for transplantation.

Rejection: an event when the immune system tries to fight off a transplanted organ.

Renal: relating to the kidneys.

Retransplantation: the transplantation of a new organ after the rejection or failure of a previously transplanted organ.

Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR): the organization that collects and reports data on transplant recipients.

Sensitization: the condition where a potential recipient has antibodies in his blood that make crossmatching less likely – usually because of pregnancy, blood transfusion, or previous rejection of a transplanted organ.

Side Effect: an unintended (but not necessarily unexpected) reaction to a drug.

Small Bowel: see Intestine.

Status: a code used to indicate the relative degree of medical urgency for a patient waiting for a heart or liver transplant.

Steroid: one of a group of medications including Prednisone and Solu-Medrol.

Systolic: the top number of a blood pressure reading measuring the heart when it is contracting.

Thoracic: relating to the heart, lungs, and chest.

Tissue Typing: a blood test identifying genetic markers. Tissue typing is done for all kidney donors and recipients to determine a proper match.

Transplantation, Allogenic: see Allograph.

Transplantation, Autologous: transplantation of an organism’s own cells or tissues back into itself.

Transplantation, Xenogenic: see Xenograph.

UNOS: United Network for Organ Sharing.

Varices: enlarged veins that can develop in the esophagus and stomach with liver disease.

Vascular: relating to blood vessels.

Xenograph: transplantation between members of a different species, e.g., the transplantation of animal organs into humans.