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ABSORPTION is how quickly and to what extent a drug enters the bloodstream.

ACUTE TUBULAR NECROSIS (ATN) is reversible kidney damage, caused by a delay in function. It can be caused by a variety of factor including: the quality of the donor organ, how long the organ was stored before transplantation, or anti-rejection medications.

ALKALINE PHOSPHATASE is an enzyme produced by liver cells. If an elevated level of alkaline phosphatase is found in lab tests, it may be an indication of abnormal liver function.

ALLOCATION means distributing organs fairly to patients in need.

ALLOGRAFT is the transplantation of an organ between people of the same species but with genetic differences.

ANESTHETIC is medication that reduces pain.

ANTACID is a drug that helps in the digestive process by relieving heartburn.

ANTIBODY is a protein substance made by the body’s immune system. It works to protect the body from what is believed to be a foreign substance or foreign body. Antibodies attack transplanted organs which is why transplant recipients must take immunosuppressive, or anti-rejection, drugs.

ANTIGEN is a foreign substance that triggers an immune response.

ARTERIOGRAM takes an x-ray of the arteries with the help of a dye.

ASCITES is excess fluid in the abdomen.

ATHEROSCLEROSIS is the fat buildup lining the arteries. It may impede the flow of blood.

AUTOGRAFT is transplanting tissue or bone from one site on a patient’s body to another site.


B CELLs are specialized white blood cells. They play a central role in the production of antibodies.

BACTERIA are small germs that cause disease.

BILIARY STENOSIS is a narrowing or constriction of a liver bile duct.

BILIARY TREE is the term for all passageways inside and outside the liver that carry bile to the intestines.

BILE is the fluid produced by the liver. It is stored in the gallbladder and released into the small intestine to help absorb dietary fat.

BILE DUCTS are the tubes through which bile flows.

BILE LEAK means that there is a hole in the bile-duct system. A bile leak will cause bile to spill into the abdominal cavity.

BILIRUBIN is an orange-colored substance in bile produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.

BIOAVAILABILITY measures how much of an administered drug is absorbed into the bloodstream so that it actually reaches its intended site in the body.

BIOPSY is the removal and examination of tissue for diagnosis.

BLADDER receives urine from the kidneys and stores it until urination. It is part of the urinary tract.

BLOOD UREA NITROGEN is a byproduct of protein breakdown in the body.

BLOOD VESSELS are the system of arteries, veins and capillaries through which blood circulates.

BONE is the dense tissue that forms the skeleton.

BONE MARROW is the soft tissue located inside the cavities of bones and is the source of all blood cells.

BRAIN DEATH happens when the brain stops working permanently. The body’s heart and respiration may be maintained for several days with the help of artificial support.

BUN stands for Blood Urea Nitrogen, or waste from the kidney. A BUN measure helps to indicate how well the kidney’s are functioning.


CADAVERIC DONOR is a deceased organ donor who has recently died of causes that will not affect the function of the organ to be transplanted.

CELLCEPT® is an immunosuppressive drug used with other immunosuppressants to prevent the rejection of the transplanted organ. It is also known by its chemical name, myophenolate mofetil.

CHOLESTEROL is a type of fat that, in low levels, performs necessary functions in the body, but in high levels, can cause heart disease.

CIRRHOSIS is a disease causing irreversible scarring of the liver.

CMV (CYTOMEGALO VIRUS) is a common virus infection that can affect the lungs and other organs. It is a member of the herpes family.

COAGULATION is blood clotting.

COALITION ON DONATION is a non-profit alliance of health and science professionals, patients, voluntary and transplant organizations. Its primary service is to increase public awareness for organ donation.

COMPLIANCE is following orders and adhering to rules and policies.

CORTICOSTEROIDS is a category of immunosuppressive medications that includes prednisone and prednislone.

CONNECTIVE TISSUE forms the supportive structures of the body.

CREATININE is found in both blood and urine and normally results from normal body chemical reactions. An elevated level of creatinine may be a sign of kidney malfunction.

CROSSMATCH is a test in which donor and recipient blood samples are mixed together. A “positive” crossmatch shows the donor and recipient are incompatible. A “negative” crossmatch shows there is no reaction between the donor and the recipient. This means that the donor and recipient are compatible and the transplant may proceed.

CYCLOSPORINE is an anti-rejection drug used following organ transplantation to suppress the immune system.


DETOXIFY is to change a harmful substance into a safer form.

DIABETES is a disease in which patients have higher than normal levels of sugar in their blood.

DIALYSIS cleanses the blood of patients whose kidneys have failed. It may also be referred to as hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis (PD).

DIASTOLIC measures blood pressure when the heart is at rest. It is the bottom of two blood pressure numbers.

DONATION is the act of giving one’s organs or tissue to someone else.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY is document that allows individuals to designate who should make medical decisions for them should they be unable to speak for themselves.


EDEMA is excess fluid in body tissues.

ELECTROCARDIOGRAM records the electrical activity of the heart.

ELECTROLYTE generally refers to the dissolved form of a mineral such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chlorine, etc.

END-STAGE ORGAN DISEASE means that the organ is failing to function normally. Examples include: emphysema (lungs), cardiomyopathy (heart), and polycystic kidney disease (kidneys).

END-STAGE RENAL DISEASE (ESRD) is a life-threatening kidney disease where the preferred treatment is transplantation. All patients who suffer from ESRD are on dialysis.
END-STAGE RENAL DISEASE/CHRONIC KIDNEY FAILURE indicates a condition requiring dialysis or tranplantation.

ENZYME is a protein made in the body and capable of changing a substance from one form to another.


GALLBLADDER is the muscular sac attached to the liver that stores bile.

GASTROENTEROLOGIST is a physician who specializes in the care of the digestive tract.

GINGIVAL HYPERTROPHY is a common side effect of cyclosporine therapy. Its symptoms include an enlargement of the gums and can be managed with good oral hygiene.

GLUCOSE is a type of sugar found in the blood.

GRAFT is another name for an organ or tissue that is transplanted. See allograft for additional information.

GRAFT SURVIVAL occurs when a transplanted organ is accepted by the body and functions properly. The potential for graft survival is increased when the recipient and donor are closely matched, and when immunosuppressive therapy is used.


HEART is the muscle that pumps blood through the body.

HEART VALVES are tissues that prevent the back flow of blood into the heart. The heart valves can be donated and transplanted.

HELPER T CELLs are specialized white blood cells that tell other parts of the immune system to attack infections.

HEMATOCRIT is a measure of the red blood cell content of blood.

HEMODIALYSIS is the method of dialysis in which blood is purified by circulating through an apparatus outside the body (sometimes called an “artificial kidney”).

HEPATIC is anything relating to the liver.

HEPATOLOGIST is a physician who studies the liver and treats liver disease.

HEPATOMEGALY refers to an enlarged liver.

HERPES is a family of viruses. Herpes simplex causes lip and genital sores; herpes zoster causes shingles.

HIRSUTISM refers to an excessive increase in hair growth – especially male-pattern hair growth, in a female. Hirsutism is a common side effect of corticosteroids and can also occur with cyclosporine therapy. It is easily treated with depilatory creams or other methods of hair removal.

HISTOCOMPATIBILITY ANTIGENS characterize each individual as unique. These antigens are inherited, and help determine the compatibility of tissues for transplantation from one individual to another.

HUMAN LEUKOCYTE ANTIGENS (HLA) are tissue types. There are three major genetically controlled groups HLA-A, HLA-B, HLA-DR used in matching organ donors and recipients.

HYPERTENSION is high blood pressure.


IMMUNE RESPONSE refers to any defensive reaction taken by the body’s immune system.

IMMUNE SYSTEM is the system that protects the body against the invasion of bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells.

IMMUNITY allows the body to resist particular infectious diseases.

IMMUNOSUPPRESSION is the artificial suppression of the immune response, usually through drugs, so that the body will not reject a transplanted organ. Immunosuppressive drugs include: prednisone, azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine, OKT3 and ALG.

IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE AGENTS are medications given to prevent organ rejection.

IMURAN® is an immunosuppressive drug used with other immunosuppressive drugs to help prevent the rejection of a transplanted organ. It is also known by its chemical name, azathioprine.

INCOMPATIBLE means there is no similarity between donor or recipient blood type, tissues or organs.

INFORMED CONSENT is the process of reaching an agreement based on full disclosure. Informed consent often refers to the process by which one decides to donate the organs of a loved one.

IV, or INTRAVENOUS refers to medicines or fluids given directly through a vein.

IV CATHETER is a small needle with a hollow tube inserted into a vein and used to give medicines or fluids.


JAUNDICE refers to the yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by excess bile in the blood.


KIDNEY is one of two kidney-bean shaped organs located on both sides of the spine, just above the waist. The kidneys maintain proper water and electrolyte balance, regulate acid-base concentration, and filter the blood of waste, which is excreted as urine.


LIVER is the large reddish-brown organ that secretes bile and is active in the formation of certain blood proteins. It is also responsible for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

LIVER ENZYMES are substances produced by the liver and released into the blood. These enzymes help to gauge the degree of liver function.

LIVING-RELATED DONOR (LRD) is close friend or family member who donates one kidney or a portion of their liver.

LUNGS are a pair of spongy organs that remove carbon dioxide from the blood and provide it with oxygen.


MATCH refers to the compatibility between recipient and donor.

MICROEMULSION mixes tiny droplets of one liquid with a second liquid, such as the smooth mixture that is formed when Neoral® (cyclosporine capsules and oral solution for microemulsion) combines with fluids in the digestive system.


NATIONAL ORGAN TRANSPLANT ACT (NOTA) was passed by Congress in 1984 and outlaws the sale of human organ. It also initiated the development of a national system for organ sharing and a scientific registry to collect and report transplant data.

NEPHROLOGIST is a physician who studies the kidney and treats kidney disease.

NEUTROPHIL is a type of white blood cell.

NONCOMPLIANCE indicates failure to follow the instructions of one’s health care providers. Noncompliance is not taking medicine as prescribed.

NOTA See National Organ Transplant Act.


ORALLY means taking medications by mouth.

ORGAN PRESERVATION is the length of time that organs and tissues can be kept outside the body. Special methods of preservation are instituted between organ procurement and transplant in order to keep organs viable.

ORGAN PROCUREMENT ORGANIZATION (OPO) serves as the main link between the potential donor and recipient. OPOs are accountable for the retrieval, preservation and transportation of organs for transplantation. All OPOs are UNOS members.

ORGAN REJECTION means that the body’s immune system is attempting to reject or destroy the transplanted organ.


PANCREAS is a long, irregularly shaped gland behind the stomach. It secretes pancreatic juice into the lower end of the stomach to assist in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

PANEL REACTIVE ANTIBODY (PRA) measures immune system activity within the body. PRA is higher when more antibodies are being made.

PCP or Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, is a type of pneumonia seen primarily in patients whose immune systems are suppressed.

PERITONEAL DIALYSIS purifies the blood by flushing the abdominal cavity with a diluted salt solution.

PLATELETs are small blood cells needed for normal blood clotting.

POTASSIUM is one mineral essential for proper body function.

PRA See Panel Reactive Antibody.

PREDNISONE is a manufactured steroid hormone taken by most transplant recipients to help prevent rejections.

PROCUREMENT is the process of retrieving organs from a donor.

PROPHYLACTIC MEDICATION helps prevent disease.


RECIPIENT is a person who receives an organ transplant.

REJECTION happens when the body tries to get rid of the transplanted organ by producing antibodies. If not successfully treated, the transplanted organ will fail.

RENAL refers to the kidney.

REQUIRED REQUEST is a law requiring hospitals to tell the families of suitable donors that their loved one’s organs can be used for transplant.

RETRANSPLANTATION refers to patients who require another transplant due to organ rejection or transplant failure.


SENSITIZED is the act of being able to mount an immune response against an antigen because of previous exposure to that antigen.

SODIUM is an electrolyte that is the main salt in blood. It is also a component of table salt (sodium chloride).

STATUS indicates the degree of medical urgency for patients awaiting an organ transplant.

STENOSIS is a narrowing of a body passageway.

STRICTURE is a narrowing of a body passageway.

SURVIVAL RATES indicate how many patients are alive and functioning at a set time post trasnplant. Survival rates are often given at one, three and five years.

the top of the two blood pressure numbers, which measures the maximum blood pressure reached as blood is pumped out of the heart chambers


TENDON is the touch tissue that connects a muscle with a bone.

TISSUE TYPING is the examination of Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA), and is done for all donors and recipients. It helps match the donor with the recipient.

TRANSPLANT CENTER is a hospital that performs organ transplants.

TRANSPLANTATION refers to the transfer of cells, tissues or organs from one area of the body to another, or from one body to another body.

TRANSPLANTATION, ALLOGENEIC refers to the transfer of cells, tissues or organs between geneticially different members of the same species. See Allograft.

TRANSPLANTATION, AUTOLOGOUS refers to an organism’s own cells or tissues. It may be used to repair or replace damaged tissue.

TRANSPLANTATION, XENOGENEIC (xenograft) happens between members of different species.

TRIGLYCERIDES are a form of fat that the body makes from sugar, alcohol, and excess calories.

T CELLS are the white blood cells responsible for the body’s immunity. T cells can destroy cells infected by viruses, graft cells, and other altered cells

T-TUBE is placed in the bile duct to allows bile to drain into a bag outside the body.


ULTRASOUND is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves that pass into the body and are reflected back onto a monitor to build an image of internal organs.
UNITED NETWORK OF ORGAN SHARING (UNOS) is a non-profit scientific and educational organization that advances organ availability and transplantation across the nation.

URETHRA is a tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside.

URETERS are tubes that drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

URINARY TRACT INFECTION (UTI) is an infection that affects one or more parts of the urinary tract.

U.S. SCIENTIFIC REGISTRY OF TRANSPLANT RECIPIENTS is a database of post transplant information. It is used to track transplant center performance, transplant success rates and medical issues affecting transplant recipients.


VENTILATOR is a machine that helps a patient to breathe artificially.

VIRUS is a very small germ that causes an infection.


WAITING LIST is the list of names of people waiting for an organ. Lists are specific to both geographic area and organ type: heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, intestine, heart-lung, kidney-pancreas. Each time a donor organ becomes available, the UNOS computer generates a list of potential recipients based on factors that include genetic similarity, organ size, medical urgency and time on the waiting list. Through this process, a “new” list is generated each time an organ becomes available.

WHITE BLOOD CELLS are the blood cells that fight infection


XENOGRAFT is an organ procured from a different species for transplantation into a human.

XENOTRANSPLANTATION refers to the transplantation of the genetically modified organs of laboratory animals into humans.