Giving hope life & healing

Organ Recovery Process

Organ Recovery Process


  • Medical professionals at a hospital identify a potential candidate for donation. The nature of the injury leads a physician to determine if the patient is brain dead.
  • The organ procurement organization (OPO) is called on all hospital patient deaths and imminent patient deaths. Information is provided on the patient’s medical status and the OPO coordinator evaluates the patient to determine whether or not the patient is a suitable candidate for donation.
  • If the patient is a candidate for organ and/or tissue donation, at an appropriate time the authorized representative is offered the option of donation if a donor designation by the decedent cannot be identified or is not applicable by state law. If the decision is made to donate, the authorized representative signs a form for donation of anatomical gift.
  • Once authorization or donor designation has been provided, the OPO clinical coordinator, in concert with the hospital staff, maintains the patient medically. Physician support is also requested on a consultation basis.
  • Information on the organs available for donation, the donor’s blood type and body size is provided to UNOS by the OPO coordinator. The UNOS computer then matches the donated organs to potential recipients.
  • Recipient selection is 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.
  • A computerized list of waiting patients in the matching blood group is provided to the OPO coordinator who seeks to match organs with recipients in the OPO’s donation service area. If a match cannot be made for a specific organ within this area, the organ is offered on a regional basis, then nationally, if necessary.
  • When a recipient match has been found, the OPO coordinator calls the transplant center for the patient who matches the donated organ(s). The patient’s transplant surgeon is responsible for making the decision whether to accept the organ. If the surgeon declines the organ for that patient, the OPO coordinator contacts the transplant surgeon of the next patient on the list.
  • This process continues for each organ until all of the organs have been appropriately matched with recipients. The OPO coordinator then arranges for the operating room for the recovery of the organs and the arrival and departure times of the transplant teams.
  • When the surgical team arrives, the donor is taken to the operating room where the organs and tissues are recovered through a dignified surgical procedure. In accordance with federal law, physicians recovering the organs do not participate in the donor’s care prior to the determination of brain death.
  • Once the recipients have been identified, they are called by their transplant surgeons for the final pre-operative preparations while the organ recovery process is occurring at the donor hospital. Upon the organs’ arrival at the transplant hospital, the recipients are taken to surgery and the transplants are performed.
  • The OPO coordinator takes a sample of the lymph node tissue to a laboratory for tissue typing and subsequent matching with recipients. Other organs are taken directly to the recipients by the surgical recovery teams.
  • After the recovery of organs and tissues has occurred, the donor family can proceed with funeral or burial plans which are not affected by the organ donation. Organ and tissue donation is a dignified and respectful process.
  • The OPO coordinator follows up each donation by sending letters to the donor family, hospital staff, physicians and nurses regarding the organs and tissues that have been transplanted.


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Charlotte, NC 28208
fax: 704.512.3056

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