Successful Organ Donation

Doctors at Forth Valley Royal Hospital have reported their first successful non-heart beating organ donation. Two kidneys were retrieved from a male patient who died in the intensive care department. One was received by a man in his late 30’s who had been waiting since 2008 when his first transplant failed. He is now recovering well at home. The other kidney was given to a man in his 60’s who is making steady progress in hospital. The transplant operations were carried out at centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Although doctors in NHS Forth Valley have attempted to retrieve organs from several non-heart beating donors in the past, unfortunately these organs have either not been of sufficient quality or have failed to reperfuse. This is therefore the first time that organs from a non-heart beating donor in Forth Valley have been successfully transplanted.

Traditionally organs have been retrieved from patients who are diagnosed as brain dead but whose hearts continue to beat purely due to them being on a ventilator.  This has been the most common method because the organs are not deprived of a blood supply. In recent years, however, it has also become possible to retrieve organs from patients who have suffered a ‘cardiac’ death also known as donation after cardiac death or DCD.

These are usually organs donated by people who have experienced a severe brain injury from which they cannot recover and, although their heart has stopped beating, their organs still have a sufficient supply of blood and can be suitable for transplant if they are retrieved fairly soon after their heart has stopped beating, normally within a few hours.

Recent studies have also shown that transplant outcomes using kidneys donated by patients who have suffered a ‘cardiac’ death within an intensive care unit compare well with those from traditional brainstem dead donors.

NHS Forth Valley Clinical Lead for Organ Donation Dr Mark Worsley said:

 Around 700 people a year in the UK die whilst waiting for a kidney. Being able to use kidneys from non heart beating donors is a tremendous step forward. For example, in the past year in Scotland we have had 38 donations after cardiac death which is an increase of 10 on the previous year and the number is set to grow even further in the future.”

Recent figures show that 38% of the population in Forth Valley have now signed up to the NHS Organ Donation Register which is a record high and an increase of 2.3% from a year ago. Despite this increase, however, NHS Forth Valley is still below the national Scottish average of 41% and local transplant donor leads are therefore keen to encourage more local people to sign up to the register over the next year.