You might think of a transplant as an organ replacement, where a surgeon removes a diseased organ and replaces it with a healthy one from a donor. For some types of organ transplants, however, this is rarely the case. Unless the old organ would pose a danger to the patient, it's actually safer and less invasive to keep it in. For one thing, organ removal can require additional recovery time. In the case of kidney transplants, where this approach is the most common, the patient would need to undergo immediate dialysis and sometimes even a blood transfusion if the old kidney is removed, neither of which are always necessary when it's left alone. It's rare, but even some heart-transplant recipients benefit from this surgical method. If there are issues with the new heart, the patient's native heart can sometimes jump in and assist while doctors try to fix the problem.
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Key Facts In This Video
The first successful organ transplant occurred in 1954, when doctors Joseph Murray and J. Hartwell Harrison transplanted a kidney from one identical twin to another. 00:39
Experts in the fields of medicine and 3D printing are proposing a process that would allow them to 3D print human organ tissue. Researchers at Princeton and Johns Hopkins University have already printed a prototype outer ear. 02:52
The first head transplant surgery is scheduled for 2017, when a terminally ill computer scientist is set to have his head transplanted onto another body. 05:13