Donation After Cardiac Death: A Necessary Expansion for Heart Transplantation

Semin Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2019 Winter;31(4):721-725. doi: 10.1053/j.semtcvs.2019.05.010. Epub 2019 May 16.


The gold standard and sole curative therapy for advanced stage heart failure is cardiac transplantation. As the population ages, the number of patients diagnosed with advanced heart failure and listed for transplant steadily increases annually. However, there remains a paucity of eligible donation after brain death (DBD) donor hearts which severely limits access to cardiac transplantation and leads to increasing wait-list times and avoidable patient mortalities. Though the first human heart transplant in 1967 was performed using a deceased donor heart, the advent of brain death criteria and the ability to avoid long warm ischemic times led donation after cardiac death (DCD) transplantation to fall out of favor. Due the current state of cardiac transplantation, there has been a resurgence in interest in DCD heart transplantation leading to the development of DCD heart transplantation programs in the UK and Australia after positive reports of successful DCD cardiac transplantation in the pediatric literature. These programs have demonstrated favorable post-transplantation outcomes equivalent to matched traditional DBD transplants with current techniques and strict donor criteria. This technique has been proven safe with favorable outcomes and has been demonstrated to significantly increase transplant volumes and decrease patient mortality. Given these outcomes and the high patient benefit to risk ratio, DCD donor heart transplantation is necessary to expand the donor pool and decrease patient mortality and should be developed in high volume experienced cardiac transplant centers.

Keywords: Cardiac transplant; DCD; Heart transplant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Donor Selection*
  • Heart Diseases / mortality*
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / surgery*
  • Heart Transplantation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Organ Preservation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Tissue Donors / supply & distribution*
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists* / mortality