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Massive intracerebral bleeding may cause brain stem death in transplant (Tx) recipients early or late postTx. We addressed the question as to whether Tx recipients may safely be used as organ donors. In particular, it is feared that exposure to immunosuppressive drugs may render those organs unsuitable for Tx.


We reviewed two case reports of liver grafts procured from Tx patients. In addition, we conducted a survey within United Kingdom Transplant Support Service Authority (UKTSSA) to delineate the UK experience in that area.


Donor 1 was an 50-year-old heart Tx recipient who became brain stem dead due to cerebral bleeding 8 months postTx. His liver was used in an 55-year-old patient with PBC who is alive and well more than 22 months postTx. Donor 2 was a 22-year-old kidney Tx patient who developed cerebral bleeding 4 years postTx. His liver was used in a 65-year-old patient with PBC who is doing well more than 27 months postTx. During the study period of 1989-1995, 13 organs (9 kidneys, 3 hearts, 1 liver) were procured from 6 brain stem dead Tx patients (3 long, 2 heart, and 1 kidney Tx patients). Seven recipients are enjoying satisfactory graft function 1 to 7 years postTx; one kidney Tx recipient was relisted 4 years postTx due to chronic rejection; five functionning grafts were lost to patient death; primary nonfunction was seen in one heart Tx recipient.


Tx patients can be successfully used as organ donors. In particular, chronic exposure to immunosuppression is not per se a contraindication to donation. Tx physicians confronted with the rare and tragic event of brain stem death in a Tx patient should not a priori exclude these patients from donation.

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