Donation Dictionary


The following terms are associated with organ, tissue and cornea donation and transplantation.

ABO: The blood type associated with each potential donor and candidate. Blood types can be A, B, AB or O. Blood types must match between donors and recipients.

Allocation: Plan for how organs are distributed. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) lists organs in the order they should be allocated.

Anti-rejection Medication: Prescribed medication that individuals who have received an organ must take in order to help the body accept the donated organ. They typically must take the medications their entire life, though the dosage decreases substantially over the years. FK506 (Prograf) and Cyclosporine are the most common anti-rejection medications.

Brain Death: The permanent, irreversible neurological cessation of brain function, including the brain stem. If the brain does not receive blood or oxygen, it cannot tell the body, including the heart, to work. Brain death is different from brain damage and coma.

Brain Stem: Located at the base of the skull, this portion of the brain is considered the “command center” of the body.

Cardiac Death: Occurs when the heart stops beating and ceases to send blood or oxygen to the body.

Candidate: A person awaiting a transplant.

Coma: Deep and often prolonged unconsciousness, usually caused by disease or injury.

CORE: The Center for Organ Recovery & Education, the not-for-profit, regional agency that manages the donor program in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, NY. CORE talks with families about the opportunity to donate and then mobilizes the transplant teams for the appropriate recovery. CORE also is responsible for medical management of the donor, the computerized matching of donated organs and placement of corneas.

Cornea: The clear tissue covering the front surface of the eye that permits light to enter and provides most of the focusing power.

Corneal Blindness: Blindness caused by the severe scratching of the cornea; unrelated to the optic nerve. Usually the result of chemical spills, industrial accidents, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Deceased Donor: A donor whose organs and/or tissue have been donated after they have been declared dead, as opposed to a living donor giving a kidney, partial lung or partial liver.

Donor Designation: To record your wishes to be a donor on your driver’s license by registering online or at your state’s department of motor vehicles.

Donor Family: The family whose loved one is a donor.

Donor Referral Coordinators: “Central command” for CORE ‘s office, donor referral coordinators accept calls from the hospitals; conduct the initial medical assessment to determine potential for donation; notify the transplant hospital; mobilize the surgical recovery team; and facilitate the computerized matching of donated organs.

Eye Bank Specialist: CORE staff members who evaluate the viability of corneas and place them for transplant.

First-person Consent: Consent for donation obtained from an individual through some type of documentation, including a driver’s license, state identification card, online designation or living will.

Heart: Organ that pumps blood and oxygen through body.

Intestines: Two digestive organs in the abdomen; the small intestines remove nutrients from the food to be used for energy, and the large intestines absorb water from the digested food and make stool. The small intestine may be transplanted.

Kidneys: Two organs that filter waste and excess fluid from the blood and pass them out of the body as urine. An individual can live with only one kidney, and it is therefore possible to donate a kidney while alive.

Ligament: A band of fibrous, connective tissue that attaches bone to bone and bone to cartilage, supporting and strengthening the joints. Ligaments are often used as part of a bone transplant to repair knee and other joint injuries.

Liver: A large organ whose many functions include aiding in digestion, removing toxins from the body, and regulating the chemicals in the blood. An individual may donate part of his or her liver while alive. The remaining portion of the liver will regenerate to full size in both the donor and the recipient.

Living Donor: A person who donates an organ or part of an organ while alive. Living donors may donate anonymously to a person on the waiting list or to a person who is known to them.

Multivisceral: Multiple-organ transplant that includes the stomach, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine.

Organ: Heart, kidneys, lungs, intestines, stomach, pancreas and liver. A kidney or lobe from a lung or liver may be donated while someone is alive; the other organs are donated at the time of death.

Organ Donor: A person, deceased or living, who gives an organ to be transplanted into another person.

Organ Procurement Coordinators: CORE staff members trained to offer families the opportunity to donate. At the hospital, organ procurement coordinators conduct a thorough medical assessment to determine potential for donation; provide support for donor families; medically manage the donor to ensure the organs remain healthy for transplant; and coordinate the operating room for the surgical recovery.

Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs): Agencies in the United States authorized by the federal government to manage the organ donor program. There are 58 OPOs in the United States.

Organ Transplant Centers: Hospitals authorized to perform organ transplants. While each of the 155 hospitals in CORE’s region serve as a referral site for potential donors, only six perform organ transplants.

Pancreas: An organ that produces the insulin hormone needed to regulate blood-sugar levels, and produces enzymes to aid in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The pancreas can be donated and transplanted, typically for diabetic patients who suffer kidney failure.

Pennsylvania Act 102: Legislation signed into law December 1994. It stipulates: Acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania must notify the OPO of all deaths; at 16, individuals may place the donor designation on his or her license with parental permission; healthcare professionals, unless trained and certified by the OPO, cannot offer families the opportunity to donate; an organ donor trust fund must be established to support statewide educational programs; and a signed donor card or donor designation on the license/state identification card legally are binding for people 18 and older. The legislation served as a model for regulations adopted on a federal level in 1998.

Recipient: The individual who receives a transplanted organ or tissue.

Recovery Coordinators: CORE staff members responsible for assisting transplant surgeons with organ recoveries and for performing the actual recovery of tissue.

Rejection: Reaction caused by the immune system attacking a transplanted organ or tissue by the production of antibodies. Immunosuppressive drugs are prescribed to help prevent this reaction.

Renal: Of or pertaining to the kidneys; kidney failure is often referred to as renal failure.

Required Request: A federal law that stipulates the family of an individual who has died and is medically suitable for donation must be given the opportunity to donate.

Routine Referral: A program that mandates hospitals to notify the OPO of all deaths. CORE started the program in 1989 in which hospitals voluntarily called with all deaths. It was signed into Pennsylvania law in 1994 and adopted on a federal level in 1998.

Saphenous Vein: A vein from inside the leg that goes from the ankle to the groin. Donated veins are used to help people with vascular disease or who need heart bypass surgery.

Serologies: Tests performed on blood of potential donors to determine presence of transmissible diseases that might render the organs and tissue unhealthy for transplantation.

Stomach: Organ that stores food.

Tendon: A cord of tough, fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. Surgeons use donated tendons to help reconstruct damaged joints.

Tissue: A general term for the corneas, tendons, ligaments, saphenous and femoral veins, fascia, heart valves, skin and bone that may be recovered for transplantation.

Tissue Bank: An organization that processes, stores and distributes donated tissue and cells.

Tissue Donor: Someone who donates tissues at the time of death including bone, tendons, ligaments, skin, saphenous veins, corneas and heart valves.

Transplant Team: The group of healthcare professionals responsible for the evaluation and listing of patients for transplantation and the recovery of donated organs.

Trauma Team: Healthcare professionals at the hospital treating an individual in a life-saving situation. The trauma team is separate from the transplant team.

United Network for Organ Sharing: The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is contracted under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oversee organ allocation in the United States. In addition to working with procurement and transplant organizations to establish policies, UNOS maintains the Organ Procurement Transplant Network (OPTN), the database of individuals awaiting organ transplantation. UNOS is based in Virginia.

Vein: Blood vessels that carry blood to the heart.

Ventilator: A machine that helps supply oxygen to the blood.

Waiting List: Includes those in need of an organ transplant. A candidate’s diagnosis, age, weight, height, blood type and organ(s) required are entered into the database.