Objective: This study examines donation after cardiac death (DCD) practices and outcomes in liver transplantation.
Summary background data: Livers procured from DCD donors have recently been used to increase the number of deceased donors and bridge the gap between limited organ supply and the pool of waiting list candidates. Comprehensive evaluation of this practice and its outcomes has not been previously reported.
Methods: A national cohort of all DCD and donation after brain-death (DBD) liver transplants between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2004 was identified in the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. Time to graft failure (including death) was modeled by Cox regression, adjusted for relevant donor and recipient characteristics.
Results: DCD livers were used for 472 (2%) of 24,070 transplants. Annual DCD liver activity increased from 39 in 2000 to 176 in 2004. The adjusted relative risk of DCD graft failure was 85% higher than for DBD grafts (relative risk, 1.85; 95% confidence interval, 1.51-2.26; P < 0.001), corresponding to 3-month, 1-year, and 3-year graft survival rates of 83.0%, 70.1%, and 60.5%, respectively (vs. 89.2%, 83.0%, and 75.0% for DBD recipients). There was no significant association between transplant program DCD liver transplant volume and graft outcome.
Conclusions: The annual number of DCD livers used for transplant has increased rapidly. However, DCD livers are associated with a significantly increased risk of graft failure unrelated to modifiable donor or recipient factors. Appropriate recipients for DCD livers have not been fully characterized and recipient informed consent should be obtained before use of these organs.