Management to optimize organ procurement in brain dead donors

Minerva Anestesiol. 2009 Mar;75(3):125-33. Epub 2008 Jan 24.


The demand for donor organs continues to exceed the number of organs available for transplantation. Many reasons may account for this discrepancy, such as the lack of consent, the absence of an experienced coordinator team able to solve logistical problems, the use of strict donor criteria, and suboptimal, unstandardized critical care management of potential organ donors. This has resulted in efforts to improve the medical care delivered to potential organ donors, so as to reduce organ shortages, improve organ procurement, and promote graft survival. The physiological changes that follow brain death entail a high incidence of complications jeopardizing potentially transplantable organs. Adverse events include cardiovascular changes, endocrine and metabolic disturbances, and disruption of internal homeostasis. Brain death also upregulates the release of pro-inflammatory molecules. Recent findings support the hypothesis that a preclinical lung injury characterized by an enhanced inflammatory response is present in potential donors and may predispose recipients to an adverse clinical prognosis following lung transplantation. In clinical practice, hypotension, diabetes insipidus, relative hypothermia, and natremia are more common than disseminated intravascular coagulation, cardiac arrhythmias, pulmonary oedema, acute lung injury, and metabolic acidosis. Strategies for the management of organ donors exist and consist of the normalization of donor physiology. Management has been complicated by the recent use of ''marginal'' donors and donors of advanced age or with ''extended'' criteria. Current guidelines suggest that the priority of critical care management for potential organ donors should be shifted from a ''cerebral protective'' strategy to a multimodal strategy aimed to preserve peripheral organ function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Brain Death* / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Forecasting
  • Graft Survival
  • Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Tissue Donors* / supply & distribution
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / organization & administration*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / trends


  • Hormones