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Vital times: A glance at the role time plays in organ transplants

Posted at 11:47 PM, Jul 16, 2014
and last updated 2016-09-15 10:20:56-04

With kidney transplants, each surgery (donor and recipient) lasts about 3-5 hours.

About 80 percent of living donor kidneys will last at least 10 years. With non-living donors, about 60 percent of transplanted kidneys will last at least 10 years.


Heart transplant surgery typically lasts four hours.

In addition to diagnostic tests, blood tests and surgical preps, a psychological and social evaluation takes place. Stress, financial issues, depression and etc. can significantly impact the outcome of a transplant.

The surgery normally requires an in-hospital recovery of seven to 14 days (or longer). 

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins

The heart and lungs can survive outside the body for 4-6 hours.

Most donors are victims of severe head trauma, a brain aneurysm or stroke. 

Once a patient is brain dead, they are considered truly dead but kept on life support as a means of preserving organs like the heart and lungs with tighter out of body survival windows.

Cold storage of hearts and lungs has been met with difficulty. In some cases, it can damage the organ.

Sources: University of Maryland Medical Center, National Center for Biotechnology, FDA,

Liver transplant surgery typically takes 4-12 hours.

According to the American Liver Foundation, more than 6,000 liver transplants are performed each year in the United States.

Most patients stay in the hospital for up to three weeks after surgery.

Currently in the U.S., there are more people waiting on livers (16,000) than their are donated livers. 

Source: American Liver Foundation

The liver has a transplant window of up to 12 hours. 

Most patients return to a regular lifestyle six months to a year after a successful liver transplant.

About 75% of liver transplant patients live five years or longer after transplant.

Sources: American Liver Foundation, University of Maryland Medical Center

The kidney has a transplant window of about 36 hours.

The longer window means kidneys can travel a greater distance for transplant.

Kidneys can be placed in cold storage to slow cellular degradation. References to cold storage of kidneys date back to 1955.

Kidneys placed in cold storage travel in coolers on ice in the company of a procurement team.

Sources: National Center for Biotechnology, University of Maryland Medical Center




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