By improving the way certain donated organs are handled before a transplant, more organs could end up being used, new research suggests.
The concern centers on organs donated following "circulatory death" (DCD). That means a patient's heart, breathing and circulation stop functioning. Most donated organs come from people who are brain dead, but their circulation is continued with machines.
Organs donated by DCD must undergo a controlled cooling process (called "cold ischemia") after the organ loses its original blood supply. The organ is then re-warmed when blood supply is renewed at the time of transplant.
This process leads to a heightened risk for tissue damage.
But a team led by Dr. John Gill of the University of British Columbia and Vancouver's Providence Health Care found that by limiting the cooling process to a period of no more than 12 hours, DCD kidney donations were just as likely to survive once transplanted than those donated following brain death.
In a news release, Gill said that in such cases "the outcomes are generally excellent, and that the use of these organs could probably be safely increased if cold ischemia times are limited."
The team noted that DCD kidney donations have become more and more common over the last decade or so. While they constituted about 7 percent of all kidney donations back in 2005, by 2015 they accounted for nearly 18 percent.
The study was published Oct. 5 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
There's more on kidney donations at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
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