Organ allocation and procurement in cardiac transplantation

Curr Opin Organ Transplant. 2021 Jun 1;26(3):282-289. doi: 10.1097/MOT.0000000000000872.


Purpose of review: There is a critical shortage of organs in cardiac transplantation. Recent advancements in both organ allocation and donor utilization have intended to address this shortage and optimally allocate allografts. This review evaluates several important aspects of recipient and donor management. For recipients, the focus is placed on the evolving mechanical circulatory support population and its bidirectional impact on organ allocation. From the donor standpoint, organ utilization is assessed with respect to increasing access to previously unused allografts.

Recent findings: Implementation of the new heart allocation system in the United States has better stratified waitlist candidates by illness acuity. Compared to the prior system, those requiring venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation support are less likely to die on the waitlist, although conflicting data exists whether this has improved their posttransplant survival. The use of pretransplant intra-aortic balloon pumps has markedly increased, whereas transplantation of patients with dischargeable left ventricular assist devices has decreased. Although some studies have reported inferior short- to mid-term posttransplant survival in the new system compared to its predecessor, others report similar outcomes.Several recent advancements in donor utilization have also been noted. Coinciding with the global increase in drug overdose deaths, efforts have been made to increase use of these donors who are frequently considered 'increased risk' and are hepatitis C-positive. Grafts from these donors appear safe to use. These, alongside donation after circulatory death donors, represent potentially underutilized populations that may effectively expand the donor pool.

Summary: Recent changes in organ allocation, alongside efforts to expand the donor pool, have attempted to improve cardiac allograft utilization and reduce the imbalance between organ supply and demand. Ongoing monitoring and continuous re-evaluation of these efforts will help guide future practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Heart-Assist Devices
  • Humans
  • Tissue Donors
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*
  • United States
  • Waiting Lists