It may not be easy to decide where to have your organ transplant with all the options you can find out there. Every hospital promotes itself as the best in its category (you have heard that before, right?!). The patients who live in a large metropolitan area are lucky because they may have access to several hospitals close to home. Kidney transplant is the surgery that is the most performed and has the most widespread locations. Hospitals are competing for potential transplant recipients and the more patients they have on a list, the more chance they have to transplant kidneys. The same applies for any other organs but with a slight variation for lungs and liver. These are the only two organs where patients are given a score more based on how sick they are rather than a priority ranking (first come first serve type).
Here are a few questions that a potential transplant recipient can ask the transplant center during interviews. Remember, as a patient you have the right to choose where your transplant will take place:
1. What is the patient/coordinator ratio once I get my transplant?
The reason behind this question is simple. You need to know if your coordinator will be overworked by following too many patients and if your calls are going to be returned. Less patients per coordinator is better.
2. What is the average wait time on the waiting list?
Important to know as some centers have shorter wait time due to the fact they are more aggressive in accepting organs.
3. What is the survival rate after 1 year and 3 years?
That information is supposed to be communicated to you every 6 months by letter. It is mandatory that every transplant centers inform their patients about outcomes. Keep in mind though that some hospitals have lower survival rate only because they accept sicker patients that have been refused by other transplant centers.
There is another piece of information that is not well known among patients. Whether you are waiting for any type of organ transplant, you can transfer your care to a new transplant center for any reasons while waiting and you keep your priority on the wait list. You would not have to start all over. Also, you can be followed by more than one transplant center so you can increase your chance of getting an organ transplant. I suggest that if you do that, you go to two transplant centers in 2 different regions so you have access to more donors. You can do that as long as you respect your transplant center policy regarding distance to travel for the actual transplant. There may be some restrictions for heart and lungs. Whatever you do, just be as informed as you can be.