Transforming the "unacceptable" donor: outcomes from the adoption of a standardized donor management technique

J Heart Lung Transplant. 1995 Jul-Aug;14(4):734-42.


Background: Donor management remains one of the most neglected areas of transplantation. A comprehensive donor management regimen has been developed. The results of the application of this strategy form the basis of this report.

Methods: Full hemodynamic data were collected from 150 multiorgan donors between October 1990 and August 1993. The data were collected at the time of donor team arrival, after insertion of a pulmonary artery floatation catheter and immediately before cardiac excision.

Results: Fifty-two donors (35%) fell well outside our minimum acceptance criteria on arrival. Twenty-one of fifty-two had a mean arterial pressure less than 55 mm Hg (mean 47 mm Hg) despite inotropic support in most cases; 10 of 52 had a central venous pressure greater than 15 mm Hg (mean 18.0 mm Hg); 2 of 52 had a high inotrope requirement greater than 20 micrograms/kg/min (mean 25 micrograms/kg/min). After the insertion of a pulmonary artery floatation catheter, an additional 13 of 52 donors were found to have a pulmonary capillary wedge pressure greater than 15 mm Hg (mean 19.8 mm Hg), and the final 6 of 52 had a low left ventricular stroke work index, less than 15 gm (mean 12.8 gm). After optimal management, including hormone replacement 44 of 52 donors yielded transplantable organs (29 hearts, 15 heart and lung blocks). Thirty-seven of forty-four patients (84%) were alive and well from 13 to 48 months after transplantation. There were five early deaths (11%) caused by infection (heart), adult respiratory distress syndrome (heart), arrhythmia (heart), cerebrovascular event (heart and lung), and infection (heart, lung, and liver). Two late deaths (5%) occurred as a result of tamponade (3 months, heart) and infection (14 months, heart and lung). Eight of fifty-two organs were still unsuitable for transplantation after optimum management during the splanchnic dissection as a result of inotrope dependency (n = 4), left ventricular hypertrophy (n = 2), and coronary artery disease (n = 2).

Conclusions: The data indicate that, of the organs which initially fall outside our transplant acceptance criteria, 92% are capable of functional resuscitation. Conversely, superficial assessment may not show compromised function. Optimizing cardiovascular performance also has important implications for the viability of all transplantable organs. This aggressive approach to donor management has resulted in the transplantation of 44 donor hearts that may otherwise have been turned down or inappropriately managed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Death / physiopathology
  • Cause of Death
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Graft Survival / physiology*
  • Heart Transplantation / physiology*
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation / physiology*
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / methods
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / physiopathology
  • Resuscitation / methods*
  • Survival Rate
  • Tissue Donors / supply & distribution*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement / statistics & numerical data*