Complications of brain death: Frequency and impact on organ retrieval

Ali Salim, Matthew Martin, Carlos Brown, Howard Belzberg, Peter Rhee, Demetrios Demetriades

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Brain death is associated with complex hemodynamic, endocrine, and metabolic dysfunction that can lead to major complications with the potential donor. Untreated, this can progress to cardiovascular collapse with loss of valuable organs for transplantation. We hypothesized that brain death-related complications would have no effect on the number of organs donated if an aggressive donor management protocol was in place. We identified all successful organ donations between January 2000 and December 2003 and evaluated them for brain death-associated complications (defined as vasopressor requirement, coagulopathy, diabetes insipidus, cardiac ischemia, lactic acidosis, renal failure, and acute respiratory distress syndrome) and donated organs per donor. Sixty-nine organ donors were identified. Complications identified were as follows: intravenous vasopressor requirement in 97.1 per cent, coagulopathy in 55.1 per cent, thrombocytopenia in 53.6 per cent, diabetes insipidus in 46.4 per cent, cardiac ischemia in 30.4 per cent, lactic acidosis in 24.6 per cent, renal failure in 20.3 per cent, and acute respiratory distress syndrome in 13 per cent. There was no significant effect of complications on the average number of organs harvested, with the exception of an increase in organs harvested in the presence of diabetes insipidus. With the implementation of an aggressive organ donor management protocol, these complications can be effectively managed with no impact on the number of organs harvested for transplant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-381
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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