Outcomes and implications of a single brain death examination policy on organ donation outcomes at a high-volume trauma center

Abraham J. Matar, Hannah Wichmann, Lisa Kenney, Anuradha Subramanian, Jonathan Ratcliff, Vishal Patel, Brett M. Tracy, Rondi B. Gelbard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Despite current neurological guidelines that a single brain death examination (SBDE) is sufficient to determine brain death, a vast majority of hospitals still use a two brain death examination (TBDE) policy based on historical practice. The purpose of this study was to analyze the outcomes and implications of an SBDE policy compared with a TBDE policy with respect to organ donation outcomes. METHODS We retrospectively reviewed all adult patients declared dead by neurological criteria between 2010 and 2018 at a high-volume trauma center. The study population was divided into SBDE and TBDE cohorts. Primary outcomes included time to organ donation, terminal donor creatinine and bilirubin, and number of procured and transplanted organs. RESULTS A total of 327 patients comprised the study population: 66.7% SBDE (n = 218 of 327 patients) and 33.3% TBDE (n = 109 of 327 patients). The SBDE group had a shorter median time from examination to procurement (38 vs. 44 hours, p = 0.02) as well as lower terminal donor creatinine (1.1 vs. 1.35 mg/dL, p = 0.004) and bilirubin (0.8 vs. 1.1 mg/dL, p = 0.04). Furthermore, the SBDE group had a significantly greater proportion of kidneys (90.6% vs. 81.6%, p = 0.02), lungs (11.8% vs. 4.6%, p = 0.02), and total organs (58.2% vs. 46.6%; p = 0.0001) procured with intent to transplant and a greater proportion of total organs transplanted (53.1% vs. 42.4%, p = 0.0004). Multivariable regression analysis confirmed that SBDE was independently associated with a shorter time to procurement, lower terminal creatinine, and increased number of procured organs. CONCLUSION These data highlight the potential benefit of an SBDE policy with regards to organ donation outcomes at a high-volume trauma center and should facilitate future randomized prospective studies to more rigorously test this hypothesis. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic/Care Management, level IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1171
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Single brain death examination
  • organ function
  • organ procurement
  • organ transplantation


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