Cardiac organ donor management

Sana Ullah, Luis Zabala, Bryan Watkins, Michael L. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


There is a critical shortage of donor organs. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), 20% of organs are discarded after procurement. Many of these may be potentially salvageable. Brain death is particularly detrimental to cardiac function. The initial sympathetic storm can produce direct myocardial injury. The ensuing spinal shock reduces global oxygen delivery. There is a change to anaerobic metabolism due to global mitochondrial dysfunction. Diabetes insipidus worsens hypovolemia and thyroid deficiency impairs cardiac function. Inadequate replacement of blood loss from trauma and coagulopathy worsens anemia and oxygen delivery. In the mid-1990s, the Papworth Hospital group in the UK advocated early invasive hemodynamic monitoring and administration of a 'hormonal cocktail', consisting of triiodothyronine (T3), vasopressin, methyl-prednisolone and insulin. This has been widely accepted and is endorsed by UNOS. Ventricular function, volume status and adequacy of resuscitation should be guided by invasive monitoring and serial echocardiography. Dopamine or epinephrine is used for inotropic support. If hypotension persists, vasopressin should be added which may allow reduction of inotropes. Donor lung function and ventilation should be optimized. Recently, two large retrospective studies have shown that, with aggressive pharmacological and hormonal resuscitation, a significant increase in the number and quality of organs harvested can be achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-98
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Safety Research
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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