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Donation after circulatory death: current status

Neyrinck, Arnea; Van Raemdonck, Dirkb,c; Monbaliu, Diethardd,e

Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology: June 2013 - Volume 26 - Issue 3 - p 382–390
doi: 10.1097/ACO.0b013e328360dc87

Purpose of review: Donor shortage has forced transplant teams to explore new methods to increase the potential donor pool. Donation after circulatory death (DCD) has opened new perspectives and could be a valuable option to expand the brain-dead donors. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of current practice and to identify remaining questions related to ethical and medical issues that should be further addressed in the future.

Recent findings: Recent findings demonstrate acceptable outcomes after DCD kidney and lung transplantation but inferior graft survival for liver transplantation. The impact and importance of the agonal phase following withdrawal of treatment in controlled DCD is increasingly recognized. Premortem interventions are currently under debate related to preservation strategies or comfort therapy. New preservation strategies using in-situ/in-vivo extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ex-vivo machine perfusion have large potential in the future. Finally, organizations and institutions are reporting more uniform guidelines related to declaration of death and DCD organ procurement.

Summary: DCD donation has regained much attention during the last decade and is now part of standard clinical practice albeit this type of donation should not be regarded as an equally acceptable alternative for donation after brain death. It will be important to further explore the potential of DCD, to monitor the long-term outcomes and to further optimize the quality of these grafts. Development and implementation of uniform guidelines will be necessary to guarantee the clinical use of these donor pools.

aDivision of Anesthesiology and Algology

bDivision of Experimental Thoracic Surgery, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

cChair of the Transplant Center, University Hospitals Leuven

dDepartment of Abdominal Transplant Surgery, University Hospitals Leuven

eDepartment of Microbiology and Immunology, Abdominal Transplant Surgery Lab, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Correspondence to Arne P. Neyrinck, MD, PhD, Department of Anaesthesiology University Hospitals Leuven Herestraat 49, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium. Tel: +32 16 34 13 75; e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.