Challenges in Providing Timely Physiotherapy and Opportunities to Influence Outcomes for Potential Lung Donors

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Abstract

Context:

There is a critical shortage of donor lungs however, considerable ethical considerations are associated with the conduct of research to optimize care of the potential organ donor.

Objective:

To investigate pathways of consent, respiratory care by physiotherapists and donation rates to contextualize future research on physiotherapy effects on donor lung suitability for procurement.

Design:

Retrospective audit.

Setting:

Australian tertiary hospital.

Patients:

Potential organ donors (defined as patients who may have been eligible to donate organs for transplantation via either brain death or circulatory death) 75 years or younger presenting to the emergency department or the intensive care unit (ICU) between September 2011 and December 2012.

Main Outcome Measures:

Donation rates, timing of organ procurement from initial hospital presentation, number of persons designated to make health-care decisions approached for and consenting to donation and clinical research, and number of patients assessed and/or treated by physiotherapists.

Results:

Records of 65 potentially eligible donors were analyzed. Eighteen (28%) of the 65 became donors. Organ procurement occurred at a median of 48 hours (interquartile range: 34-72 hours) after ICU admission. All decision-makers approached regarding participation in clinical research (4 [6%] of the 65) consented. Physiotherapists assessed 48 (74%) of the 65 patients at least once and provided 28 respiratory treatments to 18 (28%) of the 65 patients, including lung hyperinflation and positioning. Limitations were the retrospective, single-center design and the “potential organ donor” definition.

Conclusion:

Organ procurement occurs early. There is potential for early intervention to improve lung donor rates. Randomized controlled trials investigating protocolized respiratory packages of care may increase the potential donor pool and transplantation rates.

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