Solid organ donation from the emergency department – missed donor opportunities


Objective: A significant gap exists between people awaiting solid organ transplantation and solid organ donors. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there were missed donors in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: We performed a health records and organ donation database review of all patients dying in a large tertiary ED from November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2017 at two campuses with 160,000 visits per year. Demographic and donor suitability data were collected. The primary outcome was missed potential solid organ donors. Missed potential donors were intubated, had a pulse, and had no donation contraindications. The secondary outcome was cases where no notification was made to the organ donation organization at all.

Results: There were 605 deaths in the ED. Patients had a mean age of 71.1 years, 58.3% were male, and 12.4% died of a traumatic cause. There were 10 missed potential donors. Missed potential donors had a mean age of 67.4 years, 70.0% were male, and 20.0% died from trauma. In all 10 cases, patients had withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy for medical futility, and referral for donation occurred after death. Missed ED donors could have increased hospital-wide donation up to 10.6%. No notification was made in 12 (2.0%) cases; however, none of these would have been successful solid organ donors.

Conclusion: The ED is a source of missed organ donors. All potential donors were missed due to referral after withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy. ED physicians should consider the possibility of solid organ donation prior to the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Sonny Dhanani

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

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