Waiting, Pre-Transplant

Because of the shortage of donor organs, most transplant candidates wait for a transplant.

For a list of all NKF publications on transplant, visit our A to Z Health Guide.

Getting on the Waiting List for a transplant:

For most people who need a transplant, the first step in receiving a transplant is to get on the national transplant waiting list for a transplant from a deceased donor. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)* Organ Center maintains this list. All transplant candidates who do not have the option of a living donor (and even some who do) usually wait for some length of time because there are not enough donor organs for all who need them.

Here are the necessary steps to get on the national waiting list:

  1. Your physician must give you a referral.
  2. Contact a transplant hospital. OPTN** has a list of all the transplant centers in the US on their web site.
    Step 1: Select Member Type - "Transplant Centers by Organ", then Select Organ Type
    Step 2: Select a State or select "All States"
    Click "Go"
  3. Learn as much as possible about the 200+ transplant hospitals in the United States and choose one based on your needs, including insurance, location, finances and support group availability.
  4. Schedule an appointment for an evaluation and find out if you are a good candidate for transplant.
  5. During the evaluation, ask questions to learn as much as possible about that hospital and its transplant team.
  6. If the hospital's transplant team (transplant coordinator, surgeon, transplant physician, social worker, financial coordinator, insurance case manager, and dietician) determines that you are a good transplant candidate, they will add you to the national waiting list.

Please note that UNOS will not notify you when you have been added to the list. Your transplant hospital will notify you within 10 days to inform you about your date of listing. If you have questions about your status on the list, you should ask the team at your transplant hospital.

*The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the organization that manages the waiting list for a transplant in the U.S. and matches donors to recipients. Each transplant center's waiting list is part of the "national waiting list" that UNOS manages. UNOS administers the OPTN under contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

**The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) is the unified transplant network established by the United States Congress under the National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984. The act called for the network to be operated by a private, non-profit organization under federal contract. The OPTN is a unique public-private partnership that links all of the professionals involved in the donation and transplantation system. The primary goals of the OPTN are to: increase the effectiveness and efficiency of organ sharing and equity in the national system of organ allocation, and to increase the supply of donated organs available for transplantation.

How is the right organ found for me?
UNOS maintains a centralized computer network which links all organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and transplant centers (hospitals that perform transplants) and uses a complex matching system to determine if an available organ is a good match for you.

An organ procurement organization (OPO) is an organization designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). OPOs are responsible for the procurement of organs for transplantation and the promotion of organ donation. They serve as the vital link between the donor and recipient and are responsible for the identification of donors, and the retrieval, preservation and transportation of organs for transplantation and are also involved in data follow-up regarding deceased organ donors.

UNOS member organizations, transplant candidates, recipients and donor family members work together to develop organ allocation policies that give every transplant candidate an opportunity at receiving the organ they need. Organ allocation policies are always being reviewed and revised as part of an ongoing effort to improve the transplantation process.

Many factors contribute to whether or not an organ will be offered to you, including, but not limited to: blood type, medical urgency, where you live (an organ must be safely transported the distance to the transplant hospital), and in some instances your weight and size compared to that of the donor.

Multiple Listing: To learn about how to list at more than one center at a time go to: http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/about/transplantation/transplantProcess.asp
http://www.transplantliving.org/beforethetransplant/hospital/otherOptions.aspx, or call the United Network for Organ Sharing (888-894-6361) for a free copy of their multiple listing brochure.

Incompatible Blood Types
Don't have a compatible blood type with your recipient? Learn about options for you - paired exchange, donor chains and plasmaphresis.

Also visit our Patient and Family Resources page for additional resources.