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Crit Care. 2003 Apr;7(2):147-54. Epub 2003 Mar 6.

Poisoned patients as potential organ donors: postal survey of transplant centres and intensive care units.

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National Poisons Information Service (London), Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.



The number of patients awaiting allograft transplantation in the UK exceeds the number of organs offered for transplantation each year. Most organ donors tend to be young, fit and healthy individuals who die because of trauma or sudden cardiac arrest. Patients who die from drug and poison intoxication tend to have similar characteristics but are less frequently offered as potential organ donors.


A postal questionnaire survey of all transplantation centres and an equal number of intensive care units in the UK was undertaken. The use of kidney, heart, lung, liver and pancreas transplants from poisoned patients following deliberate methanol ingestion, cardiac arrest presumed secondary to cocaine overdose, accidental domestic carbon monoxide inhalation and industrial cyanide exposure were used as case scenarios.


Response rates were 70% for transplantation centres and 50% for intensive care unit directors. Over 80% of organs would be offered or discussed with transplant coordinators by intensive care unit directors. Transplantation physicians/surgeons would consider transplanting organs in up to 100% of case scenarios, depending on the organ and poisoning or intoxication involved.


The postal survey presented here shows that most transplantation physicians and surgeons and intensive care unit directors would consider those who die following acute drug intoxication and poisoning as potential organ donors. The previously reported literature shows in general that transplanted organs from poisoned patients have good long-term survival, although the number of reports is small. Poisoned patients are another pool of organ donors who at present are probably underused by transplantation services.

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