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Overview of Transplantation

By Martin Hertl, MD, PhD, Paul S. Russell, MD

Transplantation is the removal of living, functioning cells, tissues, or organs from the body and then their transfer back into the same body or into a different body.

The most common type of transplantation is a blood transfusion (see Overview of Blood Transfusion). Blood transfusions are used to treat millions of people each year. More typically, transplantation refers to the transfer of organs (solid organ transplants) or tissues.

Organ transplantation, unlike blood transfusion, involves major surgery, the use of drugs to suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants), and the possibility of transplant rejection and serious complications, including death. However, for people whose vital organs have failed, organ transplantation may offer the only chance of survival.

Some procedures, such as hand or face transplantation, may greatly improve a person's quality of life but are not done to save life. These procedures have most of the same risks as organ transplantation. They are still experimental.

Resources In This Article

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

  • Generic Name
    Select Brand Names
  • AFINITOR
  • PROGRAF
  • OZURDEX
  • RAYOS
  • NEORAL, SANDIMMUNE
  • IMURAN
  • SIMULECT
  • ORAPRED, PRELONE
  • RAPAMUNE
  • MEDROL