Are you or a loved one in need of an organ transplant, or would you like to learn how you can help those in need? Here are five frequently asked questions to help demystify the transplant system.

1. What is an organ transplant and why do people need them?

Many conditions can lead to end stage organ disease. A few examples are diabetes, cirrhosis and cystic fibrosis. A transplant is a surgical operation to give a functioning human organ to someone whose organ has stopped working or is close to failing.

2. How do I get on the list for an organ transplant?

The first step to receiving a transplant is getting on the national transplant waiting list. Your doctor can refer you to a transplant hospital for an evaluation. If the hospital’s transplant team determines that you are a good transplant candidate, they will add you to the national waiting list.

3. How do doctors know which candidate gets the next organ?

There is a national transplant system that allocates organs to patients. Each organ type has its own allocation policy. Using a combination of donor and candidate information, such as blood type, size, medical urgency and location, the national transplant system’s computer network generates a rank-order list of all compatible candidates to be offered each organ.

4. How long is the wait for a transplant?

Wait times for transplants vary. Not everyone who needs a transplant will get one. Because of the shortage of organs that are suitable for donation, only slightly more than 50 percent of the people on the waiting list will receive an organ within five years.

5. How can I help people who are waiting for a transplant?

First, you can sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor online. Awareness is also crucial, so educate others about the power of organ donation and transplantation. Finally, living donation is an opportunity to save a life while you are still living.