Organ transplants are difficult surgical procedures in which a team of doctors surgically removes an unhealthy organ from a patient's body and replaces it with a new healthy organ. Some organ transplant candidates may have been born with a genetic defect that poses a risk of organ failure. If an organ is injured in a traumatic accident, it may not work properly again. Certain illnesses can also damage organs or cause them to fail prematurely. Examples of such diseases include polycystic kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease and cystic fibrosis.
To date, surgeons can successfully replace only certain organs including the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestines and thymus. Doctors can also replace tissues such as bones, tendons, corneas, skin, heart valves and veins. Within the past few years, doctors have conducted successful face transplants.