Deakin University

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Organ donation within the intensive care unit: a retrospective audit

journal contribution
posted on 2020-03-01, 00:00 authored by Anthony Cignarella, Bernice Redley, Tracey BucknallTracey Bucknall
BACKGROUND: Despite many Australians supporting organ donation, national posthumous organ donation rates have not increased as expected over the last three decades. Little is known about the barriers to organ donation for patients in intensive care that meet the criteria for organ donation. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of patients identified as potentially suitable for organ donation and to explore the variables associated with the success, or failure, of solid organ donation within the context of an Australian public hospital intensive care unit (ICU). METHODS: A retrospective audit examined electronic records of 280 potential organ donors aged 18-80 years, admitted into the ICU between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2016. Data extracted from three separate electronic hospital databases were amalgamated for analysis. RESULTS: Of the 280 potential organ donors identified, conversations with families of 182 (65%) patients resulted in their agreement to organ donation. Consent to organ donation was most often provided by the patient's spouse (65, 35.7%); however, only 63.7% (n = 116) were successful organ donors. The remaining 36.3% (n = 66) of patients did not donate organs for medical reasons. Compared with those who did not donate, the typical organ donor was significantly younger (M 49.9 years, p = 0.020), Australian-born (p = 0.031), and had a shorter length of ICU stay (M 64.9 h, p = 0.002). The most frequently donated organs were kidneys (103, 88.8%), lungs (59, 50.9%), and livers (52, 44.8%). CONCLUSION: This study provided insights into patient, family, and organisational factors contributing to the success of organ donation outcomes in the ICU. Two factors that adversely impacted donation outcomes were the following: (1) the family did not consent to organ donation on behalf of the patient and (2) consent was provided, but donation did not proceed for medical reasons. Although the focus on the consenting process has been raised, this study highlights the additional impact of medical suitability on rates of organ donation. Family members may experience significant disappointment after consent that may have repercussions on their health and also future donation considerations. This study also highlighted some deficiencies in the databases that, if addressed, could better inform organisational processes in the consent and support of those making decisions about consent.



Australian critical care






167 - 174




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Ltd.