Nonheart-beating kidney donation: current practice and future developments

Kidney Int. 2003 Apr;63(4):1516-29. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2003.00854.x.


Background: Nonheart-beating kidney donation (NHBD) is gaining acceptance as a method of donor pool expansion. However, a number of practitioners have concerns over rates of delayed graft function, acute rejection, and long-term graft survival. The ethical issues associated with NHBD are complex and may be a further disincentive. Tailored strategies for preservation, viability prediction, and immunosuppression for kidneys from this source have the potential to maximize the number of available organs. This review article presents the current practice of NHBD kidney transplantation, examines the results and draws comparisons with cadaveric kidneys, and explores some areas of potential development.

Methods: A review of the current literature on NHBD kidney donation was performed.

Results: The renewed interest in NHBD kidneys is driven by a continuing shortfall in available organs. Those centers involved in NHBD report an increase in kidney transplants of the order of 16% to 40% and there is no evidence that the financial costs are higher with NHBDs. The majority of experience comes from Maastricht category 2 NHBDs, where an estimation of warm time is possible. This is generally limited to 40 minutes. There are variations in the technique for kidney preservation prior to retrieval, but most centers use an aortic balloon catheter. Much work has looked at the ideal technique for kidney preservation prior to implantation. Evidence suggests that machine perfusion produces the best initial function rates, decreased use of adjuvant immunotherapy and fewer haemodialysis sessions than static cold storage.

Conclusion: Despite being associated with poorer initial graft function, the long-term allograft survival of NHBD kidneys does not differ from the results of transplantation from cadaveric kidneys. Further, serum creatinine levels are generally equivalent. Constant reassessment of the ethical issues is required for donation to be increased while respecting public concerns. Use of viability assessment and tailoring of immune suppression for NHBD kidneys may allow a further increase in donation from this source.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Arrest
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / trends*
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / trends*