Thyroid hormone therapy in the management of 63,593 brain-dead organ donors: a retrospective analysis

Transplantation. 2014 Nov 27;98(10):1119-27. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000000187.


Background: Hormonal therapy to the brain-dead potential organ donor can include thyroid hormone (triiodothyronine [T3] or levothyroxine [T4]), corticosteroids, antidiuretic hormone, and insulin.

Methods: Data on 66,629 donors (2000-2009) were retrospectively reviewed. Documentation on T3/T4 was available in 63,593 (study 1), but 23,469 had incomplete documentation of other hormones. In 40,124, details of all four hormones were recorded (study 2). In this cohort, group A (received T3/T4) consisted of 23,022, and group B (no T3/T4) consisted of 17,102 donors. A multivariate analysis was performed to determine whether age, sex, ethnicity, cause of death, body mass index, Organ Procurement Organization region, or other hormonal therapy influenced procurement. Posttransplantation organ graft survival at 1 and 12 months was compared.

Results: In study 1, 30,962 (48.69%) received T3/T4, providing a mean of 3.35 organs per donor, and 32,631 (51.31%) did not receive T3/T4, providing a mean of 2.97 organs per donor, an increase of 12.8% of organs from T3/T4-treated donors (P<0.0001). In study 2, group A provided a mean of 3.31 organs per donor and group B provided a mean of 2.87 organs per donor, an increase of 15.3% in group A (P<0.0001). T3/T4 therapy was associated with procurement of significantly greater numbers of hearts, lungs, kidneys, pancreases, and intestines, but not livers. Multivariate analysis indicated a beneficial effect of T3/T4 independent of other factors (P<0.0001). T3/T4 therapy of the donor was associated with improved posttransplantation graft survival or no difference in survival, except for pancreas recipient (but not graft) survival at 12 months in study 2.

Conclusion: T3/T4 therapy results in more transplantable organs, with no detriment to posttransplantation graft survival.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Death*
  • Female
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Organ Transplantation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Thyroxine / therapeutic use*
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / methods*
  • Triiodothyronine / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyroxine