Donor Conversion and Organ Yield in Traumatic Brain Injury Patients: Missed Opportunities and Missed Organs

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The purpose of this study was to define donation patterns and lost donor opportunities in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.


The trauma registry was queried for all deaths after severe TBI in 2004; this was cross matched with the regional organ procurement organization database and subjected to post hoc statistical analysis.


One hundred thirty-five patients met criteria for inclusion. Forty percent had isolated TBI. Forty-two patients (31%) were eligible for deceased donation. Seventeen eligible patients (40%) did not convert to donation, 15 from family declining. Twenty-five eligible patients (60%) donated 85 organs (yield 3.4 organs/donor). Yield was similar in both isolated TBI (3.2) and patients with head injuries (3.5). Ineligible patients had higher admission Glasgow Coma Scale scores, lower head Abbreviated Injury Scale scores, and were more likely to develop cardiovascular or pulmonary dysfunction (p < 0.05). Of the 25 donors, 48% did not donate hearts and 84% did not donate lungs, despite the absence of chest trauma in the majority of patients.


Less than one-third of severe TBI patients were identified as eligible organ donors and only 40% actually donated. Half of all donors fail to donate hearts and over 80% fail to donate lungs. Within this population, opportunities may exist to improve both donor conversion and organ yield.

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