Liver Transplant Using Donors After Unexpected Cardiac Death: Novel Preservation Protocol and Acceptance Criteria


*Corresponding author: Constantino Fondevila,


Donors after cardiac death (DCD) suffer irreversible cardiac arrest prior to donation. We describe our liver transplant experience with DCD whose cardiac arrest is unexpected, not following the removal of ventilatory support, whom we maintain with normothermic extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (NECMO). A potential donor goes into cardiac arrest outside the hospital and is brought to the hospital under continuous cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The donor is declared dead and placed on a cardiocompressor. Femoral vessels are cannulated and connected to cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) to establish NECMO. Blood parameters and CPB pump flow are monitored throughout NECMO, which is continued until cold preservation. From April 2002 to May 2006, 10 of 40 potential DCD livers were transplanted. Only one graft was lost to primary nonfunction (PNF) and another to hepatic artery thrombosis. Posttransplant hepatic function was good. Certain parameters, such as CPR and NECMO times, hepatic transaminases during NECMO, and donor age, determined the viability of DCD liver grafts and were used to establish criteria for their acceptance. Though considered marginal, unexpected DCD can represent an important source of viable livers for transplant if strict acceptance criteria are employed and they are maintained with NECMO prior to recovery.