The number of transplants of organs from brain-dead donors has risen sharply in the United States, primarily due to the increase in mortality associated with the drug-abuse epidemic, according to a study published in New England Journal of Medicine.
The study examined data on donors and transplantation over a 17-year period in the United States and in 8 European countries. Investigators examined survival outcomes of individuals who received heart or lung transplants from donors who died from drug intoxication or other causes.
In the US and European cohorts, ≥1 solid organs were recovered from 103,805 and 27,661 brain-dead donors, respectively.
From 2000 to 2016, there was a significant increase in the percentage of organ transplants from donors who died from drug intoxication in the United States (1.2% vs 13.7%, respectively; P <.001), but not in in the European cohort (1566 vs 1421, respectively).
In the United States, at 1 year after heart or lung transplantation survival outcomes were comparable in patients who received organ transplants from donors who died from drug intoxication or from blunt injury (heart transplantations: hazard ratio [HR], 0.85; 95% CI, 0.71-1.02; P =.07; lung transplantations: HR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.72-1.06; P =.17).
Study limitations included its non-randomized and retrospective design.
“The US data indicate that survival among recipients of allografts from donors who died from drug intoxication is similar to survival among recipients from donors who died from other causes.”
Mehra MR, Jarcho JA, Cherikh W, et al. The drug-intoxication epidemic and solid-organ transplantation. N Engl J Med. 2018;378(20):1943-1945.