Donation After Cardiac Death

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Donation after cardiac death (DCD) is organ donation by a patient who is deceased by means of cardiac arrest, rather than being determined to be brain dead.

A DCD donor is a patient who is on a ventilator and has minimal brain function, is not expected to survive, and the family wants to discontinue mechanical support. The family, physicians and OPO staff determine the time and place of ventilator withdrawal. This usually occurs in an operating room so that the organ procurement process can take place soon after cardiac death is declared.

DCD is a potential source of organs that can alleviate the current shortage of organs and allow those who wish to donate the opportunity to do so. DCD was actually used in the early years of organ donation since brain death criteria were not established until the mid-1970s.

DCD recovery will only occur after the family has provided written consent for organ donation. These donors are also declared dead by a medical professional not affiliated with the organ recovery.

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