Issues in potential organ donor management

Surg Clin North Am. 2000 Jun;80(3):1021-32. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6109(05)70111-0.


The shortage of organ donors has become a serious problem in modern medicine. Room for improvement exists in our ability to convert potential donors to actual donors based on the available numbers and a significant amount of recent research. A significant percentage of the potential donors represent head-injured patients, so a significant amount of responsibility falls on surgeons to optimize the opportunity for donation. There are clear steps along the pathway from potential to actual donor where physicians can have a significant effect on the rate of successful donation: 1. Identify all potential donors and institute a review system to verify that all potential donors are being identified in your area. 2. Establish an acceptable method to rapidly and accurately determine brain death in potential donors using the local available services. 3. Approach all potential donor families for consent, decouple death notification and consent request, use a member of the hospital team and an OPO representative to approach the family, and make the request in a private setting. 4. Use an aggressive, proactive approach to the medical management of the potential donor using the techniques described to limit the number of medical failures and maximize the number of organs donated per donor. Institute a review process to evaluate any medical failures that occur. Given the difference between the numbers of potential versus actual donors, the authors' significant contact with potential donors, and the clear opportunities for improvement in their approach, the surgical community must address these issues surrounding the optimal management of potential donors and their families.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Death / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / classification
  • Critical Care* / methods
  • Critical Care* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Tissue Donors* / classification
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / methods
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / organization & administration*