Organ procurement

  (Redirected from Organ harvesting)

Organ procurement (also called organ harvesting) is a surgical procedure that removes organs or tissues for reuse, typically for organ transplantation.[1]

Organ harvesting


If the organ donor is human, most countries require that the donor be legally dead for consideration of organ transplantation (e.g. cardiac or brain dead). For some organs, a living donor can be the source of the organ. For example, living donors can donate one kidney or part of their liver to a well-matched recipient.

Organs cannot be procured after the heart has stopped beating for a long time. Thus, donation after brain death is generally preferred because the organs are still receiving blood from the donor's heart until minutes before being removed from the body and placed on ice. In order to better standardize the evaluation of brain death, The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published a new set of guidelines in 2010. These guidelines require that three clinical criteria be met in order to establish brain death: coma with a known cause, absence of brain stem reflexes, and apnea.[2]

Donation after cardiac death (DCD) involves surgeons taking organs within minutes of the cessation of respirators and other forms of life support for patients who still have at least some brain activity. This occurs in situations where, based on the patient's advanced directive or the family's wishes, the patient is going to be withdrawn from life support. After this decision has been made, the family is contacted for consideration for organ donation. Once life support has been withdrawn, there is a 2-5 minute waiting period to ensure that the potential donor's heart does not start beating again spontaneously.[3] After this waiting period, the organ procurement surgery beings as quickly as possible to minimize time that the organs are not being perfused with blood. DCD had been the norm for organ donors until 'brain death' became a legal definition in the United States in 1981.[4] Since then, most donors have been brain-dead.[5]

If consent is obtained from the potential donor or the potential donor's survivors, the next step is to perform a match between the source (donor) and the target (recipient) to reduce rejection of the organ by the recipient's immune system. In the United States, the match between human donors and recipients is coordinated by groups like United Network for Organ Sharing.[6]

Co-ordination between teams working on different organs is often necessary in case of multiple-organ procurement.[7] Multiple-organ procurement models are also developed from slaughtered pigs to reduce the use of laboratory animals.[8]

The quality of the organ then is certified. If the heart stopped beating for too long then the organ becomes unusable[7] and cannot be used for transplant.

Preservation and transportEdit

After organ procurement the organs are often rushed to the site of the recipient for transplantation or preserved for later study. The faster the organ is transplanted into the recipient, the better the outcome. While the organ is being transported, it is either stored in an icy cold solution to help preserve it or it is connected to a miniature organ perfusion system which pumps an icy solution (sometimes enriched with potassium) through the organ.[4][9][10][11] This time during transport is called the "cold ischemia time". Heart and lungs should have less than 6 hours between organ procurement and transplantation.[12] For liver transplants, the cold ischemia time can be up to 24 hours,[12] although typically surgeons aim for a much shorter period of time. For kidney transplants, as the cold ischemia time increases, the risk of delayed function of the kidney increases.[4] Sometimes, the kidney function is delayed enough that the recipient requires temporary dialysis until the transplanted kidney begins to function.

In recent years novel methods of organ preservation have emerged that may be able to improve the quality of donated organs or assess their viability. In the case of DCD, the first technique established for organ procurement was super-rapid recovery.[13] The most widely used technique involves machine perfusion of the organ at either hypothermic (4-10 °C) or normothermic (37 °C) temperatures. Hypothermic perfusion of kidneys is a relatively widespread practice. For the heart normothermic preservation has been used in which the heart is provided with warm oxygenated blood and so continues to beat ex-vivo during its preservation. This technique has also been applied to lungs and led to the emergence of donor lung reconditioning centres in North America. For the liver, hypothermic and normothermic techniques are being used with evidence to suggest that both may be beneficial.[14]

Ethical issuesEdit

Although the procedure of organ transplantation has become widely accepted, there are still a number of ethical debates around related issues. The debates center around illegal, forced or compensated transplantation like organ theft or organ trade, fair organ distribution, and to a lesser degree, animal rights and religious prohibition on consuming some animals such as pork.

There is a shortage of organs available for donation with many patients waiting on the transplant list for a donation match. About 20 patients die each day waiting for an organ on the transplant list.[15] When an organ donor does arise, the transplant governing bodies must determine who receives the organ. The UNOS computer matching system finds a match for the organ based on a number of factors including blood type and other immune factors, size of the organ, medical urgency of the recipient, distance between donor and recipient, and time the recipient has been waiting on the waitlist.[12]

Because of the significant need for organs for transplantation, there is ethical debate around where the organs can be obtained from and whether some organs are obtained illegally or through coercion.

In 2009, the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet triggered international controversy by claiming that Israeli troops killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs – the Israeli government condemned the allegations as an antisemitic libel.[16] During the controversy, it emerged that there had been a practice in Israel of harvesting tissues from the deceased (both Israelis, Palestinians, and foreigners) without the knowledge and consent of their families, but that practice ended in the 1990s.[17]


In 2005, China admitted to using the organs of executed prisoners for transplant.[18] Due to religious tradition of many Chinese people who value leaving the body whole after death, the availability of organs for transplant is much more limited. Almost all the organs transplanted from deceased donors came from executed prisoners.[18] Since then, China has repeatedly been found to have a rampant black market for organs for transplant, including continued use of organs from executed prisoners without their consent and targeting young army conscripts for their organs.[19] In 2014, China promised that by January 1, 2015, only voluntary organ donors would be accepted.[20] China has worked to increase the number of voluntary organ donors as well as to convince the international community that they have changed their organ procurement practices after many prior failed attempts to do so.[21] According to the former vice-minister of health, Dr. Huang Jiefu, the number of voluntary organ transplants increased by 50% from 2015 to 2016.[21] Many of the organs harvested are sold to overseas buyers who fly to China for the transplantation procedure. It is possible to schedule these surgeries in advance which is not possible in systems which rely on voluntary organ donation.[22] Muslim customers from the Middle East reportedly request Halal organs, those which come from a Muslim person.[23]

In the United StatesEdit

In the United States, organ procurement is heavily regulated by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) to prevent unethical allocation of organs.[4] There are over 110,000 patients on the national waiting list for organ transplantation and in 2016, only about 33,000 organ transplants were performed.[15] Due to the lack of organ availability, about 20 patients die each day on the waiting list for organs.[15] Organ transplantation and allocation is mired in ethical debate because of this limited availability of organs for transplant. In the United States in 2016, there were 19,057 kidney transplants, 7,841 liver transplants, 3,191 heart transplants, and 2,327 lung transplants performed.[24]


Organ procurement is tightly regulated by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). In the United States, there are a total of 58 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) that are responsible for evaluating the candidacy of deceased donors for organ donation as well as coordinating the procurement of the organs.[4] Each OPO is responsible for a particular geographic region and is under the regulation of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Geographic Transplant RegionsEdit

The United States is divided into 11 geographic regions by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.[25] Between these regions, there are significant differences in wait time for patients on the organ transplant list. This is of particular concern for liver transplant patients because transplantation is the only cure to end-stage liver disease and without a transplant, these patients will die.[26] One example that brought this disparity to light was in 2009, when Steve Jobs traveled from California, where wait times are known to be very long, to Tennessee, where wait times are much shorter, to increase his chances of getting a liver transplant.[25] In 2009, when Jobs received his liver transplant, the average wait time for liver transplantation in the United States for a patient with a MELD score of 38 (a metric of severity of liver disease) was about 1 year. In some regions, the wait time was as short as 4 months, while in others, it was more than 3 years.[27] This variation for a patient with the same illness severity has caused significant controversy over how organs are distributed.

HOPE ActEdit

The HOPE (HIV Organ Policy Equity) Act allows for clinical research on organ transplantation from HIV+ donors to HIV+ recipients. The Act was passed by Congress in 2013 and officially changed OPTN policy to allow for its implementation in November, 2015.[28] Prior to the HOPE Act, it was banned to acquire organs from any potential donor who was known to have, or even suspected to have, HIV.[29] According to UNOS, in the first year of implementation, 19 organs were transplanted under the HOPE Act.[30] Thirteen of those organs transplanted were kidneys and 6 were livers.[30]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tissue and Organ Harvesting". Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  2. ^ Principles of critical care. Hall, Jesse B.,, Schmidt, Gregory A.,, Kress, John P. (Fourth ed.). New York. 2015-06-02. ISBN 978-0071738811. OCLC 906700899.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ Sade, Robert M. (August 2011). "Brain death, cardiac death, and the dead donor rule". Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association (1975). 107 (4): 146–149. ISSN 0038-3139. PMC 3372912. PMID 22057747.
  4. ^ a b c d e Schwartz's principles of surgery. Schwartz, Seymour I., 1928-, Brunicardi, F. Charles,, Andersen, Dana K.,, Billiar, Timothy R.,, Dunn, David L.,, Hunter, John G. (Tenth ed.). [New York]. 2014-07-16. ISBN 978-0071796750. OCLC 892490454.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ Sade, Robert M. (2017-01-31). "Brain death, cardiac death, and the dead donor rule". Journal of the South Carolina Medical Association (1975). 107 (4): 146–149. ISSN 0038-3139. PMC 3372912. PMID 22057747.
  6. ^ Steinbrook, Robert (2007). "Organ Donation after Cardiac Death". New England Journal of Medicine. 357 (3): 209–213. doi:10.1056/NEJMp078066. PMID 17634455.
  7. ^ a b An improved technique for multiple organ harvesting, TE Starzl, C Miller, B Broznick, Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1987 October; 165(4): 343–348.
  8. ^ Multiple-organ harvesting for models of isolated hemoperfused organs of slaughtered pigs. C Grosse-Siestrup, C Fehrenberg, H von Baeyer. Dept. and Facilities of Experimental Animal Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
  9. ^ Organ transport methods
  10. ^ Stig Steen's organ perfusion method
  11. ^ Kimblad, Per Ola; Sjöberg, Trygve; Massa, Giorgio; Solem, Jan-Otto; Steen, Stig (1991). "High potassium contents in organ preservation solutions cause strong pulmonary vasocontraction". The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 52 (3): 523–528. doi:10.1016/0003-4975(91)90917-F. PMID 1898141.
  12. ^ a b c "Learn about the Donor Matching System - OPTN". Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  13. ^ Cascales-Campos, Pedro A.; Ferreras, David; Alconchel, Felipe; Febrero, Beatriz; Royo-Villanova, Mario; Martínez, María; Rodríguez, José M.; Fernández-Hernández, Juan Á; Ríos, Antonio; Pons, José A.; Sánchez-Bueno, Francisco (January 2020). "Controlled donation after circulatory death up to 80 years for liver transplantation: Pushing the limit again". American Journal of Transplantation. 20 (1): 204–212. doi:10.1111/ajt.15537. ISSN 1600-6143. PMID 31329359.
  14. ^ Nasralla, David; Coussios, Constantin C.; Mergental, Hynek; Akhtar, M. Zeeshan; Butler, Andrew J.; Ceresa, Carlo D. L.; Chiocchia, Virginia; Dutton, Susan J.; García-Valdecasas, Juan Carlos; Heaton, Nigel; Imber, Charles; Jassem, Wayel; Jochmans, Ina; Karani, John; Knight, Simon R.; Kocabayoglu, Peri; Malagò, Massimo; Mirza, Darius; Morris, Peter J.; Pallan, Arvind; Paul, Andreas; Pavel, Mihai; Perera, M. Thamara P. R.; Pirenne, Jacques; Ravikumar, Reena; Russell, Leslie; Upponi, Sara; Watson, Chris J. E.; Weissenbacher, Annemarie; et al. (2018). "A randomized trial of normothermic preservation in liver transplantation". Nature. 557 (7703): 50–56. Bibcode:2018Natur.557...50N. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0047-9. PMID 29670285. S2CID 4990879.
  15. ^ a b c "Organ Donation Statistics: Why be an Organ Donor? |". Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  16. ^ Boudreaux, Richard (2009-08-24). "Article about organ harvesting sparks Israel-Sweden tiff". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  17. ^ Black, Ian (2009-12-21). "Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-30.
  18. ^ a b "China To 'Tidy Up' Trade in Executed Prisoners' Organs". The Times. December 3, 2005.
  19. ^ Foster, Peter (2009-08-26). "China admits organs removed from prisoners for transplants". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  20. ^ "China to end prisoners organ harvest". BBC News. 2014-12-04. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  21. ^ a b "We're not harvesting dead prisoners' organs any more, China insists". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  22. ^ Elliott, Tim (2019-11-08). "'Crimes against humanity': is China killing political prisoners for their organs?". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  23. ^ Everington, Keoni. "Saudis allegedly buy 'Halal organs' from 'slaughtered' Xinjiang Muslims". Taiwan News. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  24. ^ Scutti, Susan. "US organ transplants increased nearly 20% in five years". CNN. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  25. ^ a b Millman, Jason (2014-09-18). "The unacceptable geographic disparities in who gets a new organ". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  26. ^ Ghaoui, Rony; Garb, Jane; Gordon, Fredric; Pomfret, Elizabeth (2015-07-08). "Impact of geography on organ allocation: Beyond the distance to the transplantation center". World Journal of Hepatology. 7 (13): 1782–1787. doi:10.4254/wjh.v7.i13.1782. ISSN 1948-5182. PMC 4491907. PMID 26167251.
  27. ^ Hainer, By Ray. "Did Steve Jobs' money buy him a faster liver transplant? -". Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  28. ^ "hope act - OPTN". Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  29. ^ Durand, Christine M.; Segev, Dorry; Sugarman, Jeremy (2016-07-19). "Realizing HOPE: The Ethics of Organ Transplantation from HIV infected Donors". Annals of Internal Medicine. 165 (2): 138–142. doi:10.7326/M16-0560. ISSN 0003-4819. PMC 4949150. PMID 27043422.
  30. ^ a b "At One Year Anniversary, HOPE Act Impact Continuing to be Assessed". UNOS. Nov 22, 2016.