Critical care management of potential organ donors: our current standard


Corresponding author: Dr. Christine Dictus, MD, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Heidelberg, INF 400, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
Tel.: +49 6221 566308; fax: +49 6221 565534;


Abstract:  Caring for a brain dead potential organ donor requires a shift in critical care from the extensive treatment of increased intracranial pressure towards strategies to maintain donor organ function. Suboptimal, unstandardized critical care management of organ donors, however, is one of the main reasons for insufficient organ procurement. The pathophysiological changes following brain death entail a high incidence of complications including hemodynamic instability, endocrine and metabolic disturbances, and disruption of internal homeostasis that jeopardize potentially transplantable organs. Strategies for the management of organ donors exist and consist of the normalization of donor physiology. This has resulted in standardized efforts to improve the critical care delivered to potential organ donors, increasing not only the number, but also the quality of suitable organs and aiming at an optimal outcome for the recipients. In this review, we discuss the pathophysiological changes associated with brain death and present the current guidelines at our department, which are optimized based on available literature.