Organ donation by patients with and without trauma in a Canadian province: a retrospective cohort analysis

CMAJ Open. 2018 Aug 2;6(3):E300-E307. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20180026. Print Jul-Sep 2018.


Background: People who experience trauma represent a large pool of potential organ donors. Our objective was to describe organ donation by patients with and without trauma in Nova Scotia.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of all patients with trauma in the Nova Scotia Trauma Registry who were injured between Apr. 1, 2009, and Mar. 31, 2016, and died in hospital, as well as all potential organ donors captured in the Nova Scotia Legacy of Life Donor Registry over the same period. We compared characteristics of the 2 groups with respect to organ donation and identified reasons for nondonation.

Results: Overall, 940 patients were included in the analysis, of whom 689 (73.3%) had experienced trauma. Patients with trauma accounted for 37.2% (48/129) of donors. A total of 274 (39.8%) of the patients with trauma were identified as potential organ donors, and 48 (7.0%) donated organs. Only 108 (39.4%) of the 274 were referred to the Legacy of Life Program. The conversion rate (proportion of potential donors who went on to donate an organ) was 84.2% (48/57) among patients with trauma and 83.5% (81/97) among those without trauma. Donation after circulatory death occurred in 8 patients (17%) with trauma and 13 (16%) of those without trauma. Family refusal (28/60 [47%]) and medical unsuitability (16/60 [27%]) were the most common reasons for nondonation among patients with trauma.

Interpretation: In Nova Scotia, 40% of patients with trauma who died in hospital were potential organ donors, yet only 39% of these patients were referred for donation. More work is required to improve organ donation within the trauma population.