Types of organ transplants

1. Heart transplant

  • A healthy heart from a donor who has suffered brain death is used to replace a patient’s damaged or diseased heart.
  • Singapore’s first heart transplant was carried out in July 1990.
  • Due to the complexity of this procedure, strict medical criteria is imposed in assessing whether a donor’s heart is suitable for transplant, and whether a potential recipient is suitable to receive the transplant.
  • Deceased donor heart transplants are performed three to six times a year in Singapore, partly due to a scarcity of donors.

2. Lung transplant

  • One lung or both lungs from a recently deceased donor are used to replace a patient’s diseased lung or lungs.
  • Singapore’s first lung transplant was performed in November 2000.
  • Because of strict medical criteria for suitability of lung donors, as of end-2009, only nine lung transplants have been performed locally.

3. Liver transplant

  • A patient’s diseased liver is replaced with a healthy liver graft from a donor. Donor livers can be obtained from deceased donors, or a family member may choose to donate a portion of his liver to the patient.
  • Singapore’s first liver transplant was performed in September 1990.

4. Pancreas transplant

  • Singapore’s first simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant was performed in 2012. This type of transplant is commonly done on type 1 diabetics whose pancreas don’t work properly.

5. Cornea transplant

  • Corneal donation restores vision to those blinded by corneal disease. A damaged or cloudy cornea can be replaced surgically with a healthy, normal cornea, donated by another individual , during a corneal transplantation.
  • The Singapore Eye Bank, which provides corneal tissue from local and foreign donors for transplant, reported a 26-year record of 236 cornea donations in 2016. That figure, the highest since its inauguration, broke the previous record of 222 donations in 2015.

6. Trachea transplant

  • The windpipe or trachea is a cartilaginous tube descending from the larynx to the bronchi and into the lungs. A trachea transplant can help patients who suffer from hardening and narrowing of their windpipe.

7. Kidney transplant

  • A kidney for transplant can be taken from a living or dead donor.
  • Singapore’s first deceased donor renal transplant was performed in 1970; the first from a living donor was carried out in 1976. Since then, more than 1,000 deceased donor and over 500 living donor transplants have been done.

8. Skin transplant

  • Donor skin has been found to be an effective treatment option for patients suffering from severe burn injuries, acting as a temporary dressing and allowing and promote healing until a patient is ready for grafting using his own skin.
  • The Skin Bank, started in 1998 by SGH ’s Burns Centre, recovers, prepares and preserves donated skin for burns treatment. Skin must be recovered within 15 hours of a donor’s death, but it can be stored at very cold temperatures for many years.

9. Vascular tissues transplant

  • Transplanting vascular tissues that circulate blood around the body can help relieve symptoms of breathlessness, tiredness and dizzy spells in patients with severe cardiovascular conditions.
  • Vascular tisues can be donated up to 24 hours after death.

Laws governing organ transplants

HOTA (Human Organ Transplant Act)

  • The Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) allows for the kidneys, heart, liver and corneas to be removed in the event of death from any cause for the purpose of transplantation.
  • This act covers all Singapore citizens and permanent residents who are at least 21 years old and have no mental disorders. They can opt out of the scheme.

MTERA (Medical Therapy, Education and Research Act)

  • The Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act (MTERA) is an opt-in scheme, whereby people can pledge their organs or any body parts for the purposes of transplant, education or research after they pass away.
  • Donors must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Adult next-of-kin may pledge the organs of deceased patients of any age for donation.

Ref: N18