Objective: To obtain insight into the occurrence of brain death and the potential for brain dead and controlled non-heart-beating organ donors (CNHB) in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI), subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) and intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH) in a large neurosurgical serving area (2.1 million inhabitants).
Design: Retrospective analysis of data concerning patients with TBI, SAH and ICH who died during the course of ICU treatment during 1999-2003.
Setting: A 16-bed neuro-intensive care unit.
Patients: Patients with TBI, SAH or ICH who died during the course of ICU treatment.
Measurements and results: The number of ICU deaths in patients with TBI, SAH and ICH declined from 111 in 1999 to 64 in 2003. In total, 476 deaths occurred. Of these, 177 patients were not included in the analysis. Two hundred ninety-nine (299) ventilated patients had two or more absent brainstem reflexes (ABSR) and a Glasgow Coma Score of 3-4 at the moment of treatment withdrawal and formed the potential for organ donation; 61 of these patients were treated until full brain death. Organs of 57 patients could be harvested. We analysed the reasons that organs were not procured in the 242 remaining patients. The most important reasons were family refusal (32%), medical contraindications (14%), and the treating physician not considering potential organ donation (20%). The missed potential is 162/299 (54%).
Conclusions: The number of actual and potential organ donors is declining, but a considerable number of potential CNHB donors exists. Refusal by relatives is the most important reason for failure to procure organs.