Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

Transplant surgery: a changing specialty

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 01 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:020366
  1. Nicholas Brook, clinical research fellow in surgery1,
  2. Daniel Ridgway, clinical research fellow in surgery1,
  3. Steven White, lecturer in transplantation1,
  4. Michael Nicholson, professor of surgery1
  1. 1Leicester General Hospital

Nick Brook and colleagues explain the merits of transplant surgery as a career specialty and how best to get into it

A career in transplant surgery offers many intellectual and technical challenges. It is life saving surgery that has the potential to offer a high level of job satisfaction. As a discipline it is advancing in step with technological and pharmacological developments which have led to unique opportunities to pursue numerous avenues for clinical and laboratory research.

The scope of transplant surgery includes renal, liver, heart, lung, small bowel, and pancreas transplants, but other areas such as bone, skin, and cornea transplant lie within the remit of their given specialties. Surgeons train in one kind of transplant surgery, although often a liver transplant surgeon will, for example, also be able to perform renal or pancreatic transplant procedures.

There are a large number of transplant centres in the United Kingdom, mostly based in or around large cities. Some deal with transplants of more than one organ type, while others specialise in single organ types. The centres are coordinated by UK Transplant, an umbrella organisation that oversees the distribution of organs on the basis of priority, which consists of a combination of clinical urgency and tissue type matching.

Renal transplantation

Demand for renal transplant surgeons is high. There are about 4800 patients on the renal transplant waiting list in the UK, with an average wait of 600 days for a transplant. Efforts are being made to close the ever widening gap between supply and demand, and there are several exciting areas of development, including xenotransplantation (the use of animal organs) and living related donation (a kidney from a relative, friend, or spouse).

The use of so called marginal organs is also picking up. A marginal organ is one that in the past would have …

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