Physiologic changes during brain stem death--lessons for management of the organ donor

J Heart Lung Transplant. 2004 Sep;23(9 Suppl):S217-22. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2004.06.017.


The widespread physiologic changes that follow brain stem death lead to a high incidence of complications in the donor and jeopardize vital organ function. Strategies for the management of organ donors exist whereby the rapid physiologic decline seen after brain stem death can be stabilized by active donor resuscitation so that the functional integrity of potentially transplantable organs is maintained. Understanding the complex physiologic changes that occur after brain stem death is crucial to the development of effective donor management strategies. This article reviews the pathophysiologic changes that occur after brain stem death and discusses controversies in donor management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Death / pathology
  • Brain Death / physiopathology*
  • Brain Stem / blood supply
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Brain Stem / pathology
  • Diabetes Insipidus / etiology
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / etiology
  • Endocrine System / metabolism
  • Endocrine System / pathology
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / etiology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Vasopressins / metabolism


  • Hormones
  • Insulin
  • Vasopressins