Variability in Heart Yield From Donation After Brain Death Between Organ Procurement Organizations: An Opportunity for Improvement

ASAIO J. 2023 Jul 1;69(7):e322-e332. doi: 10.1097/MAT.0000000000001973. Epub 2023 Jun 27.


Increasing the number of available hearts for transplantation is the best strategy to decrease waitlist mortality. This study examines organ procurement organizations (OPOs) and their role in the transplantation network to determine whether variability in performance exists across them. Adult deceased donors who met the criteria for brain death between 2010 and 2020 (inclusive) in the United States were examined. A regression model was fitted and internally validated using donor characteristics available at the time of organ recovery to predict the likelihood of heart transplantation. Subsequently, an expected heart yield was calculated for each donor using this model. Observed-to-expected (O/E) heart yield ratios for each OPO were calculated by dividing the number of hearts recovered for transplantation by the expected number of recoveries. There were 58 OPOs active during the study period, and on average, OPO activity grew over time. The mean O/E ratio among OPOs was 0.98 (standard deviation ± 0.18). Twenty-one OPOs consistently performed below the expected level (95% confidence intervals < 1.0) and generated a deficit of 1,088 expected transplantations during the study period. The proportion of hearts that were recovered for transplantation varied significantly by OPO categories: low tier 31.8%, mid tier 35.6%, and high tier 36.2% (p < 0.01), even as the expected yield was similar across tiers (p = 0.69). OPO performance accounts for 28% of the variability in successfully transplanting a heart after accounting for the role of referring hospitals, donor families, and transplantation centers. In conclusion, there is significant variability in volume and heart yield from brain-dead donors across OPOs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Death
  • Heart
  • Heart Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Tissue Donors
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*