Organ Transplants

Life-changing procedures such as organ and tissue transplantation have revolutionised healthcare and would have been unthinkable in 1948.

Transplants are undoubtedly one of the most miraculous feats of modern medicine, saving the lives of thousands of people in the UK each year.

The first successful kidney transplant was carried out in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1960, with a 49-year-old man receiving a kidney from his twin brother.

A further 35 transplants were carried out over the next eight years at the Royal Infirmary. New anti-rejection drugs helped survival, with some patients on the point of death living full lives for 30 years and more.

In 1968 a new unit opened at the Western General in Edinburgh – the world’s first custom-built transplantation centre. Transplantation later extended to liver and hearts (in Edinburgh and Glasgow) and lungs at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

Key dates:

  • 1960 – First successful kidney transplant in UK
  • 1968 – First heart transplant in the UK
  • 1979 – UK’s first successful bone marrow transplant on a child
  • 1987 – First liver, heart and lung transplant
  • 1994 – Organ Donor Register set up – by 2005 more than 12 million people had registered
  • 2012 – First person in UK to have hand transplant

At any one time more than 500 people in Scotland are waiting for a transplant.

In Scotland, a new soft ‘opt out’ system for organ donation is being introduced under new legislation.


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