Donation after circulatory death

Br J Anaesth. 2012 Jan:108 Suppl 1:i108-21. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer357.


Donation after circulatory death (DCD) describes the retrieval of organs for the purposes of transplantation that follows death confirmed using circulatory criteria. The persisting shortfall in the availability of organs for transplantation has prompted many countries to re-introduce DCD schemes not only for kidney retrieval but increasingly for other organs with a lower tolerance for warm ischaemia such as the liver, pancreas, and lungs. DCD contrasts in many important respects to the current standard model for deceased donation, namely donation after brain death. The challenge in the practice of DCD includes how to identify patients as suitable potential DCD donors, how to support and maintain the trust of bereaved families, and how to manage the consequences of warm ischaemia in a fashion that is professionally, ethically, and legally acceptable. Many of the concerns about the practice of both controlled and uncontrolled DCD are being addressed by increasing professional consensus on the ethical and legal justification for many of the interventions necessary to facilitate DCD. In some countries, DCD after the withdrawal of active treatment accounts for a substantial proportion of deceased organ donors overall. Where this occurs, there is an increased acceptance that organ and tissue donation should be considered a routine part of end-of-life care in both intensive care unit and emergency department.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Pathways
  • Euthanasia, Passive
  • Heart Arrest*
  • Humans
  • Terminal Care / methods
  • Tissue Donors / supply & distribution
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / methods
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / organization & administration*
  • Warm Ischemia / adverse effects
  • Warm Ischemia / methods