An approach to organ salvage from non-heartbeating cadaver donors under existing legal and ethical requirements for transplantation1

David Anaise*, Robert Smith, Masahiro Ishimaru, Wayne C. Waltzer, Moshe Shabtai, Steven Hurley, Felix T. Rapaport

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Effective utilization of nonheartbeating cadaver donor organs is limited by the time required to obtain the necessary family consent prior to organ retrieval (a delay of at least 4—6 hr); this exceeds by far the maximum tolerance of kidneys to warm ischemia. Measures that could theoretically permit use of such organs include: (1) rapid in situ flush cooling; (2) continued in situ kidney cooling until permission for donation is secured; and (3) cell-membrane stabilization of vital organs, with only minimal invasion of the donor body. These measures were tested experimentally in dogs. Hemorrhagic shock was produced in mongrel dogs. One hour after cessation of heartbeat, a rapid perfusion tube was placed into the femoral artery; it was advanced, and its balloon was inflated in the aorta above the renal vessels. The kidneys were then flushed in situ with 1000 cc of cold preservation solution containing a calmodulin inhibitor, trifluoperazine. Two other catheters were inserted percutaneously into the peritoneal cavity for continuous intraperitoneal cold perfusion. Core temperatures of 4°C were maintained in situ in the kidneys for 5 hr. Six hours after cardiac arrest, the kidneys were removed and preserved ex vivo at 4°C for 24 hr, and were then transplanted into their respective hosts (n = 11), where they sustained life uneventfully. This method requires a 2-inch incision in the groin of the prospective donor, and two small stab wounds of the abdomen; i.e., semi-invasive procedures which are commonly performed in emergency rooms. The perfused body could then be released to the family if donation is denied. The recently documented increased willingness of the public to donate organs when the termination of life support is not an issue, and court decisions that have authorized the performance of nondeforming diagnostic procedures in cadavers without consent, suggest that the salvage of transplantable semi-invasive procedures described in this study may be useful in helping to alleviate the current shortage of transplantable organs. This technique can provide the time needed for families to consider the option of organ donation from nonheartbeating cadaver donors in an unhurried and unpressured manner, while preserving the viability of vital organs during the decision-making process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-294
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1990
Externally publishedYes


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