To describe the clinical characteristics and organ donation rate of patients supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) at the time of death.
Retrospective observational study. Pearson chi-square and Fisher exact tests were used in statistical analyses.
One hundred twenty-seven acute care hospitals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Adult and pediatric patients who were on ECMO at the time of referral to a large organ procurement organization (OPO) between 2016 and 2020.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:
Nineteen thousand nine hundred thirty patients were referred to the OPO between November 2016 and September 2020, of which 5,034 were medically suitable potential donors. Of this cohort, 143 patients were supported on ECMO at the time of OPO referral and 141 were included in analyses (median age 47 yr, 60% male). Thirty-three percent (46/141, median age 48 yr, 52% male) donated organs, compared with 50% of non-ECMO patients (p ≤ 0.0005). ECMO and non-ECMO patients had organs recovered but not transplanted at similar rates (11% vs 10%, p = 0.8). There were no significant differences in sex (p = 0.16) or ethnicity (p = 0.50) between organ donor and nondonor groups. Fifty-one percent (21/41) of organ donors donated after circulatory death and 49% (20/41) after brain death. Patients declared dead by neurologic criteria were more likely to donate (51%) than those declared dead by circulatory criteria (21%, p < 0.001). Frequency of cardiac arrest prior to ECMO was similar between donors and nondonors (p = 0.68). Thirty-nine percent (16/41) of donors had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) and 51% (21/41) were cannulated via extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR). The most common reason patients were not donors was that family declined (57%).
One-third of patients referred to the OPO on ECMO at the time of death donated organs. While donation occurred less frequently after ECMO, ECMO and non-ECMO patients had organs used rather than discarded at a similar rate. Patients successfully donated following OHCA and/or ECPR. Clinicians should not consider ECMO a barrier to organ donation.