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Transplantology (Organ Transplant) Worldwide: Best Hospitals, Doctors, Options, & Cost

Update: Apr 17, 2024

Best transplant centers

A quick guide to selecting a transplant center

Before choosing a transplantology hospital, paying attention to its profile and specialization is necessary. Always look for clinics with many years of proven experience. The number of patients' positive reviews forms the reputation of a hospital. International accreditation and certificates will also help ensure a successful transplant.

The surgery result depends on the frequency of organ transplants you need, the percentage of successful operations and organ rejections, updated equipment, and transplant doctor qualifications. The best transplantology clinics use minimally invasive techniques and develop intensive aftercare programs to increase the chances of long-term functioning of transplanted organs. An important factor is the presence of large donor banks in the country. Thus, patients do not have to wait long for surgery.

AiroMedical lists only proven centers that show the best results. Our experts have compiled transplant hospital rankings for your convenience, which can be found on our platform.

Top-rated transplant doctors

Prof. Dr. med. Helmut Friess
Excellent
AiroScore
9.90
University Hospital Rechts der Isar Munich
general, abdominal, thoracic, oncosurgery, endocrine surgery, and transplantology
Prof. Dr. med. Jens Werner
Excellent
AiroScore
9.80
University Hospital Ludwig-Maximilians Munich
general, visceral and transplant surgery, emergency medicine
Prof. Dr. med. Udo Rolle
Excellent
AiroScore
9.90
University Hospital Frankfurt am Main
pediatric surgery and urology, general surgery
Prof. Dr. med. Wolf O. Bechstein
Excellent
AiroScore
9.90
University Hospital Frankfurt am Main
general and visceral surgery, transplant and thoracic surgery
Prof. Dr. med. Mark Schrader
Excellent
AiroScore
9.90
Helios Hospital Berlin-Buch
urology and andrology, drug tumor therapy, urological minimally invasive surgery
Prof. Dr. med. Martin Strik
Excellent
AiroScore
9.90
Helios Hospital Berlin-Buch
general surgery, vascular and abdominal surgery, oncologic and transplant surgery
Prof. Dr. med. Christian Stief
Excellent
AiroScore
9.80

Features of the best transplant specialist

Before choosing which surgeon to contact, ask about the availability of certificates and licenses for such operations and read patients' reviews. Finding a transplant doctor who has been practicing for several years and has the necessary training and experience to provide quality care is essential.

Leading transplantologists work in specialized medical institutions, university clinics, and research institutes. The availability of high-quality, modern equipment gives you an incredible advantage in the issue of organ transplants. The best transplant surgeons usually have different specializations. Therefore, it is worth choosing someone with experience with diseases similar to yours, for example, urologist for kidney transplant.

You can get more information about organ transplant features and find a transplant doctor on the AiroMedical platform. Assess our selection tools to find the right doctor for your case.

What organs are transplanted?

Saving a person's life through organ transplantation is a risky procedure. The new organ needs to be accepted by the immune system, which can be challenging since foreign tissue is often rejected. As a result, not all organs can be successfully transplanted. Some body parts, such as the kidneys, heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, and intestines, are more commonly transplanted. Additionally, tissues like tendons, bones, skin, nerves, veins, heart valves, and cornea can be transplanted.

Heart transplant
It may be the only therapy option for cardiomyopathy, severe heart failure, ad congenital heart disease, etc. Before transplantation, the donor's heart is carefully checked for compatibility with the recipient.

During the operations, two teams of experienced surgeons work: the first takes the organ from the donor, and the second prepares the patient's body for transplantation. Cardiac surgeons connect the donor organ's vessels with the recipient's veins and arteries with the jeweler's precision.

Lung transplant
This method is utilized for treating patients in the advanced stages of lung ailments such as severe emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, and others.

Sometimes, lungs can be transplanted from a dead donor who has suffered brain death. Alternatively, a living donor can donate the lower right lobe of their lung, and another can donate the lower left lobe, which can be transplanted into the recipient's lungs. In some cases, when the heart is weakened by previous diseases, the heart, and lungs are implanted simultaneously.

Kidney transplant
In people with polycystic, kidney injury, chronic pyelonephritis, and renal failure, the functioning of the renal apparatus is gradually wholly disrupted. Dialysis cannot bring a patient back to daily life. He needs a new healthy organ.

Kidney transplantation has been performed for more than 30 years. Rejection occurs in less than 5% of cases. Highly skilled specialists carry out the procedure in state-of-the-art robotic operating rooms. Minimally invasive surgery is the most common approach, which reduces the recovery period.

Liver transplant
The liver can regenerate and return to its original size. That means that when parts of a donor's liver are transplanted into a patient, both the transplanted liver and the donor's remaining liver can restore to their standard size within 1-2 months. A new organ is necessary for people with cirrhosis, metabolic disorders, hepatitis, at an early stage of cancer, or with a congenital anomaly.

There are several options for transplantation: complete replacement of the affected organ or partial removal of the affected liver area and transplantation of the donor part in its place. The operation takes 8-12 hours. Only 50% can be removed from the donor when donating a liver. However, the patient receiving the transplant needs the entire liver. The success rate for liver transplantation and survival in developed countries is over 95%.

Pancreas transplant + Islets of Langerhans (pancreas islet cells)
Pancreatic transplantation is typically reserved for patients with type 1 diabetes. This metabolic disorder arises when the immune system attacks the pancreatic cells that generate insulin.

The pancreas is transplanted into the abdominal cavity instead of its original location to minimize the risk of postoperative mortality. The transplant is connected to the iliac, splenic, or hepatic vessels. A catheter is inserted through the abdomen and liver into a vein that supplies the liver during islet transplantation. Donor islet cells are then injected into this vein. If the procedure is successful, the donor cells will produce insulin.

Bone marrow transplant
The bone marrow plays a crucial role in renewing blood for all organs and tissues. However, the production of blood cells may cease due to cancer or hematopoietic diseases. Transplantation is carried out to treat this.

The donor is first stimulated to produce stem cells using specific drugs, which are then collected from their blood and frozen. Next, the patient undergoes chemo- or radiotherapy to eliminate any remaining cancer before receiving the donor bone marrow. After injection, they start to produce new blood cells.

Corneal transplant
If the cornea's surface is curved or clouded, it can significantly reduce vision and even lead to complete blindness. Keratoplasty, or corneal transplantation, is the solution to this problem. First, ophthalmologist separates the affected cornea's part. Then, a donor cornea is placed in this place, sewn to the peripheral area of the patient's cornea with threads many times thinner than a human hair.
Skin transplant
Skin grafting aids in the healing of various injuries. It is also used to restore skin removed during surgery, such as after breast cancer.
Intestine transplant
There is hope for patients with intestinal insufficiency, even in the advanced stages. There are three types of transplantation: isolated (involving only the small intestine), combined (intestines and liver), and multi-organ (pancreas, stomach, liver, and intestines). The donor must have matching body indicators with the recipient and can be a relative or any compatible person.
Partial tissue transplantation
Past illnesses, injuries, or damage can cause human organs to "fail." Tissues such as the hands and fingers, penis, thymus, stomach, uterus, testicles, heart valves, parts of bones, and vessels can also be transplanted. Transplanting blood vessels enables the redirection of blood flow in case an artery is obstructed or injured. In a face transplantation procedure, the patient receives tissues from the donor's forehead, nose, cheeks, lips, and chin.

Types of transplant

Transplant surgery in leading centers includes:

Xenotransplantation
It is transplanting an organ from an animal donor into a human recipient, such as a pig's heart valve.
Autotransplantation
The donor material is taken directly from the patient himself. Skin grafting is an example of this process.
Allotransplantation
That refers to transferring organs from one person to another.
Isotransplantation
The donor is the patient's identical twin. Immunosuppressive therapy is not required since both participants are genetically similar.

Diagnosis before organ transplant

Before surgery, doctors perform various diagnostic procedures to evaluate the patient's physical condition. It's crucial to ensure that the patient is medically fit for transplantation.

The goal is to ensure that the procedure carries an acceptable level of risk for both the patient and the donor. These tests include X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and advanced blood tests that check for underlying illnesses, tumors, and chronic infections.

Types of donor

The importance of a transplant varies depending on the type of organ a person receives. Types of donors:

Live donation
In a live donor scenario, an individual voluntarily donates an organ, part of an organ, cells, or fluid while still alive.There are two options for organ donors. The first is from relatives, which is the most common type worldwide. It includes parents, siblings, and other blood relatives. The second option is a non-relative donor. In some cases, spouses or friends can be donors.
Deceased donation
When a person who has passed away donates their organs, it is referred to as a deceased donor. In such cases, getting an organ for a foreign patient is challenging since the waiting list is very long. Moreover, in some countries, this type of donation is prohibited by law.

Most EU countries allow organ and tissue transplantation only from a close relative, which helps to ensure the principles of voluntariness and altruism. Turkey is one of the countries where it is allowed to carry out organ transplantation from a related donor up to the 4th generation (children of second cousins). In addition, family members of the patient's spouse can act as donors. Cross-donation is also available. It is when donors are changed between patients to fit patients according to the parameters necessary for transplantation.

In Italy and other EU states, it is possible to do transplantation with an unrelated donor. However, before proceeding, it is necessary to pass through the ethics committee. This committee ensures that the organ donor is not selling their organ and instead giving it out of pure friendship, altruism, or humanitarian reasons to save the friend or family member's life.

Patient & donor diagnostic process

The doctors evaluate if the patient meets the requirements for surgery. After that, they search for a matching donor and conduct thorough examinations. Specialists consider the age, the general health of the patient and the donor, their weight, age, gender, and organ size. In addition, the donor should not be infected with vector-borne infections such as syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, and C.

Doctors also conduct compatibility tests:

Blood typing
That determines the appropriate blood type, subsequently reducing organ rejection risk.
Tissue typing (HLA)
It is performed to search for HLA antigens from a potential donor to which the recipient has antibodies or to predict their appearance after transplantation.
Crossmatch test
It is used to identify whether a donor organ is compatible with the recipient's blood by mixing blood samples of the donor and recipient. The test checks if the patient's antibodies will react to specific antigens in the donor's blood. If there's a negative crossmatch, it means they are compatible, and the possibility of rejection is low.

Step-by-step organ transplant

The surgery differs depending on the donor. For example, suppose an organ is taken from a living person. In that case, it is possible to plan an operation, which is impossible if the organs are obtained from a cadaverous donor who died for unforeseen reasons.

Transplantation process

Documentation
Obtaining the family's consent and ascertaining the brain death of a potential donor.
Evaluating a donor
That includes compatibility with potential recipients on waiting lists, medical history, immune characteristics, blood type, etc. Organ checks are necessary to prevent transmitting infectious diseases or malignancies from the donor to the recipient.
Diagnosis of the patient
The evaluation is essential to understand if the patient is eligible for the surgery and will benefit from the procedure. That also includes risk assessment.
Surgical procedure
The arrival of an organ immersed in a particular solution to protect its cells and transported in a special container filled with ice to slow cellular activity. That is followed by organ transplant surgery and rehabilitation.

Every organ has a specific storage limit, and once that limit is exceeded, the organ becomes unsuitable for use. This time varies from organ to organ: heart (4-6 hours), lungs (4-6 hours), liver (12-18 hours), kidneys 48-72 hours, and pancreas (12-24 hours).

Ethical issues, restrictions, & laws by regions

When seeking organ transplantation in foreign countries, it is essential to note that only living-related donors are usually permitted. Furthermore, engaging in any commercial dealings related to organ transplantation is strictly prohibited.

Who can become a donor?

Germany & EU countries
A relative of the 1st degree of kinship.
Israel
A relative of the 1st degree of kinship.
India
A relative up to the 3rd degree of kinship.
Turkey
A relative up to the 3rd degree of kinship.

The transplantation of biological tissues and organs is subject to strict regulation at both domestic and international levels. It is primarily to prevent organ trafficking. Patients seeking treatment abroad must comply with legal procedures and obtain all necessary permits. This process is usually quick and runs concurrently with examinations.

World practice

There are two main approaches to posthumous donation worldwide: the presumption of consent and the presumption of disagreement. The first implies that a person a priori agrees to remove his organs in the event of death if there are no written or other indications that he was against it. In the second case, a document confirming his will is required to remove the deceased's organs.

The presumption of consent is in effect in countries such as France, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Spain. Notably, the presumption of consent in the country is not interpreted rigidly; in practice, the last word remains with relatives.

United States
In the US, a widely used model of posthumous donation "request consent." In addition, when getting a driver's license, Americans make a note in the corresponding column of the questionnaire.
Brasil
In Brazil, the organ donor is meant to receive financial compensation. However, the Istanbul Declaration, an international agreement on donation and transplantation, opposes giving payment for organ donation. It is because organs are considered a natural gift, not something that can be bought or sold.
Other countries
There are countries in which organ trafficking is legalized to some extent. For example, in Iran, the sale of kidneys has been legalized; the price is about 5 thousand dollars, of which the donor gets nearly a third. In China, the removal of organs for transplantation from executed prisoners is practiced.

In India and Pakistan, there is a semi-official paid donation. However, the current system may create conflicts of interest between buyers and sellers and prioritize financial gain over compatibility between the donor and recipient. Therefore, it requires revision.

Advanced treatment options in transplantology

Transplantology faces two major issues: organ rejection and a shortage of donor organs compared to demand. Researchers are exploring various solutions to overcome these problems in both areas.

Artificial organ transplant

Artificial body parts and their transplantation are becoming increasingly popular, with advancements in polymer materials and medications allowing for the creation of near-perfect replicas of human organs. These include artificial hearts, skin, retinas, and kidneys. The process involves designing the organ, preparing the materials, integrating cells, and allowing the tissues to mature.

3D printing
Recent scientific advancements in 3D bioprinting have successfully printed various organs, such as a thyroid gland and even a fragment of heart cells that beat. The process involves creating a complete 3D organ model and using a printer with cartridges filled with hydrogel and various types of cells to print a fully functional organ.

However, the main challenge with this technology is that many cells die due to the pressure drop when they exit the printer nozzle. Therefore, it is most suitable for tissues with fewer cells and more connective tissue, like bones and cartilage.

Organs on the frame
A bioactive implant consists of stem cells, a polymer matrix, and additional substances that create a favorable environment for cell growth. The frame must completely coincide with the organ being created so that the cells "know" what shape to take.

Animal tissues form a matrix or frame to make an artificial organ. The frame is then thoroughly cleaned to remove all protein substances that could cause an immune reaction. Next, cells from the person in need of the organ are placed into the frame, after which the entire workpiece is placed in a bioreactor. Finally, the organ is kept at its usual temperature and environment for several weeks or months until it is fully ready. It is already possible to create a bladder, vagina, urethra, and penis.

After the transplant, no cases of rejection were recorded. At the same time, the genitals were fully functional and allowed a person to have a normal sexual life. Scientists have also created heart valves, trachea, muscles, bones, and cartilage.

Organs on a chip
These small chips resemble credit cards but are filled with human cells arranged in a grid. The cells are connected by channels that mimic blood vessels. The chips must be placed in a reactor that drives nutrient solutions through the channels at the correct pressure. Some reactors even simulate the beating of a heart to more accurately model blood flow.

The reactor also maintains the proper temperature of the chip and pumps gas into the solution to simulate breathing. These chips have successfully replicated the functions of various organs and tissues, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, adipose tissue, and muscles.

Bionic eyes
They are thin devices that look like colorless plates implanted behind the retina. These devices create electrical signals that send the image you see to your brain. They have been tested on sheep and may help restore vision to people with retinal diseases in the future.

Genetically engineered organs

Genetically engineered body parts
An emerging field in medical research involves modifying animal organs with human genes for transplantation purposes. One alternative is using pig organs, similar in size and physiology to humans. Pigs are currently the most promising option for xenotransplantation due to their ability to be bred in large quantities and the similarity of their organs to humans.
Stem cell engineering
This technique involves using the body's cells to create replacement organs, and it is currently in active development. It has the potential to address the challenge of organ shortage and minimize complications while also reducing the need for post-surgery medication.

Operation cost & budget

Organ transplant€37,198 - 340,738

Liver transplant€37,198 - 340,738

Advantages of medical travel

Transplantation of organs and tissues can be the only solution to save a life. After a successful operation, keeping a close eye on the patient is essential. Top medical centers have organized the process to minimize risks, and in case of complications, patients receive immediate assistance.

Reasons to check transplantation options abroad

Better service
Extensive experience and a high training level among doctors engaged in transplantology.
Donor banks
Ample opportunities for the selection of material for transplantation. For example, one of the largest stem cell banks used for bone marrow transplantation is located in some countries. There are many cryobanks where a donor is selected for organ transplantation.
Multidisciplinary team
During transplantation, a team of experienced specialists works with the patient — transplant surgeons, hepatologists, anesthesiologists, immunologists, etc.
Innovations & world-quality
Numerous international clinics possess research centers and laboratories dedicated to developing and innovating.

At AiroMedical, we use a team approach that puts the patient first. If you have any inquiries about the transplantation process, please don't hesitate to contact us. We're available to provide guidance and help you make an informed choice.

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