Objective: To describe our experience with pediatric donation after cardiac death.
Design: Retrospective chart review of all cases of donation after cardiac death from 1995 to 2005.
Setting: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia pediatric intensive care unit.
Patients: Twelve patients who were pediatric organ donors after cardiac death.
Measurements and main results: Charts for 12 patients were located, and donation after cardiac death was confirmed. There were two females and ten males. Patient age ranged from 1 to 17 yrs (mean 8 yrs). Four patients had severe traumatic brain injury, and eight patients had hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. The organs procured were 24 kidneys, eight livers, four lungs, and one pancreas. The organs transplanted were 23 kidneys, four livers, and one pancreas. Ten of 12 cases of withdrawal of life-sustaining support occurred in the operating room area; the other two occurred in the holding area and the postanesthesia care unit. Children received a wide range of medications at the time of extubation. No neuromuscular blockers were used. The time of extubation to time of death ranged from 4 mins to 30 mins, with a mean of 14.5 mins. Death was declared based on cardiac asystole confirmed by auscultation and transthoracic impedance, with organ procurement initiated 5 mins later. Regarding who initiated conversation about donation after cardiac death, nine cases were family initiated, one case was physician initiated, and in two there was a collaborative approach with the physician and representative from the organ procurement organization. Of the organs transplanted, all organs other than one kidney and one split liver graft were functioning at 1 yr post-transplant.
Conclusions: Pediatric donation after cardiac death can be performed successfully; its impact on end-of-life care and bereavement needs further investigation.