Background: The shortage of transplantable organs has become a national crisis. Despite various attempts to expand the donor pool, the difference between organ supply and organ demand continues to widen. With no foreseeable increase in the number of donors, it is necessary to maximize the utilization of organs from the existing donor pool.
Methods: Records of all patients referred to the regional organ procurement organization for possible organ donation over an 8-year period (1995-2002) were reviewed. A policy of aggressive donor management (ADM) by dedicated physicians was instituted in January 1999 involving intensive care unit admission, pulmonary artery catheterization, aggressive fluid resuscitation, early use of vasopressors, prevention and treatment of complications associated with brain death, and liberal use of thyroid hormone in hemodynamically unstable donors. Data regarding referrals for organ donation, actual organ donors, organs recovered, and donors lost due to cardiovascular collapse before organ donation were compared before (January 1995- December 1998) and after (January 1999- December 2002) ADM.
Results: There were 878 patients referred for organ donation during the 8-year period. Of those, 469 (53.4%) were confirmed as potential donors, but only 161 (34.3%) became actual donors. When compared with the period before ADM, the period after ADM showed a 57% increase in total referrals (p < 0.001), 19% increase in potential donors (p = 0.01), 82% increase in actual donors (p < 0.001), 87% decrease in the number of donors lost due to hemodynamic instability (p < 0.001), and a 71% increase in the number of organs recovered (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: A policy of ADM increases the referral pool for organ donation and reduces the number of organ donors lost due to cardiovascular collapse. The net result is a significant increase in the number of organs available for transplantation.