Brain death itself impairs organ function in the potential donor, thereby limiting the number of suitable organs for transplantation. In addition, graft survival of kidneys obtained from brain-dead (BD) donors is inferior to that of kidneys obtained from living donors. Experimental studies confirm an inferior graft survival for the heart, liver and lungs from BD compared with living donors.
The mechanism underlying the deteriorating effect of brain death on the organs has not yet been fully established. We know that brain death triggers massive circulatory, hormonal and metabolic changes. Moreover, the past 10 years have produced evidence that brain death is associated with a systemic inflammatory response. However, it remains uncertain whether the inflammation is induced by brain death itself or by events before and after becoming BD.
The purpose of this study is to discuss the risk factors associated with brain death in general and the inflammatory response in the organs in particular. Special attention will be paid to the heart, lung, liver and kidney and evidence will be presented from clinical and experimental studies.