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Organ Donation Types


Updated June 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Organ Donation After Brain Death
organ donation and organ transplants

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Image: Donate Life America

Organ donation after brain death is the type of organ donation that most people are familiar with. The most common type of donation, donation after brain death is the type of donation is covered when you say yes to organ donation for a donor registry or at the bureau of motor vehicles.

A patient becomes eligible for this type of donation when they are declared brain dead, a medical condition that means that the brain is no longer receiving blood flow and has been irreversibly damaged. At the time the doctor determines that brain death has occurred, the patient becomes legally dead. In fact, the death certificate will be issued with the time of the brain death pronouncement as the time of death, rather than when the heart stops beating later during surgery.

When the donor is taken to the operating room, her heart is still beating and breathing is being supported by a ventilator. While the body is kept functioning with the help of machines and medications, the brain no longer functions in a meaningful way, and the surgery to recover the organs takes place. The supportive devices will be removed midway through recovery surgery, at which point breathing and cardiac activity cease.

Donation after brain death allows for many different organs to be transplanted, including heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and small intestine.

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