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Who’s who in transplant surgery? A medical fieldwork guide

Transplant surgery is the surgical removal of an organ, tissue or blood products from a donor that is then surgically placed or infused into a recipient. It’s generally a final treatment option for end-stage diseases, conditions or injuries that haven’t improved with other medical treatments and therefore have no other options left.

Kidney transplants are the most commonly performed, although transplants of the heart, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and even face are now available, with the majority of transplants costing the NHS up to ë£50,000[1]. After a transplant, patients usually stay in hospital for around two to three weeks, with most people being able to start returning to many of their normal activities within a few months.

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Before an organ is allocated, all transplant candidates on the waiting list are screened according to criteria including blood type, height, weight and urgency. Before the surgery takes place, it’s important to make sure the patient is well enough to withstand the effects of surgery, that the transplant has a relatively good chance of success and that the person is willing to comply with the recommended treatments after the surgery.

If they are selected, patients will undertake surgery at a specialist transplant centre. There are a total of 25 different transplant centres in the UK, with each providing different services. Almost all transplant centres provide kidney transplantation, however only a few offer liver or pancreas transplants. There are also a small number of centres that provide paediatric kidney and liver transplantation.  

As of 1st April 2017, 2187 people in the UK have received a transplant and there are currently around 6500 people on the waiting list for organ donation[2]. Recent transplant data shows that whilst more people are receiving transplants and living longer than ever before[3], despite donation consent rates reaching an all time high at 62% the UK still has one of the lowest rates of consent in Europe with family refusal being the biggest obstacle to overcome. This has a knock-on effect for healthcare market research, making transplant surgery a notoriously difficult area for recruitment due to a lack of patients.

Who’s involved in the process?

A successful organ transplant is an incredibly complex process that requires the coordination of many people, with each member of the team being an expert in different areas. This multidisciplinary team includes but is not limited to:

Transplant surgeon

Transplant surgeons are the specialist surgeons who are responsible for removing the organ from the donor and performing the transplant operation. They oversee the entire process and work closely with the whole team from the transplant physician to the specialist nurses and are also responsible for identifying and treating any complications that may arise as well as any follow-up care necessary.

Transplant physician

Transplant physicians monitor all the non-surgical aspects of a patient’s care. They don’t perform surgery, but will manage any medical problems such as hypertension and will work closely with the transplant coordinator to ensure the patient’s wellbeing until the operation takes place.

Transplant coordinator

A transplant coordinator is a licensed, registered nurse who is responsible for the evaluation, treatment and follow-up care of the patient. They are the main contact for patients before and after surgery, with responsibilities including scheduling evaluation tests, potential donors, the status of the donated organ and keeping in touch after surgery. They also give advice on how to keep healthy before and after the surgery.


A dietician is a physician with specialist training in nutrition who is responsible for creating a customised diet to aid the recovery and future health of the patient, as well as helping to manage their diet pre-surgery.

Social worker

Social workers provide support for the patient and their family, helping them to understand and cope with the issues surrounding their illness and any side effects of the surgery. They also offer links to community services and therapists.

Financial coordinators

A financial coordinator is responsible for working with other members of the transplant team as well as dealing with insurers and administrative personnel to coordinate and clarify the financial aspects of the patient’s care before, during and after the surgery. They have a detailed knowledge of financial matters and hospital billing.

Our experience

Here at GKA we have conducted over 20 market research studies on the topic of transplant surgery and have recruited a variety of respondents ranging from transplant surgeons, KOLs, pharmacists, nephrologists, virologists, hepatologists and patients. Our panel includes patients who have undergone transplant surgery, those that are awaiting surgery as well as 24 transplant surgeons, so if you are looking to carry out a healthcare market research project in transplant surgery, we can help you to contact the right people.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you with your next healthcare market research project, why not download our panel book to find out more.