What is a Donation After Circulatory Determined Death (DCD) Donor?

DCD donation occurs when a patient has sustained a severe brain injury from which they will not recover and the patient is being kept alive by artificial means including ventilators and supportive drugs. The patient is not classified as brain stem dead but they have no hope of recovery and the medical team believes that continuing medical support is futile. The decision to withdraw care is made following discussions between the relatives and doctors caring for the patient.

If the family has consented to organ donation and the decision to withdraw has been made, the patient is taken to a quiet room near the operating room where the ventilator and other machines will be turned off with the family in attendance. Once treatment has been withdrawn, the patient’s heart may stop. After 5 minutes of the heart stopping, the doctor looking after the patient will pronounce the patient dead. The donor will then be quickly transferred to the operating room where the heart will be removed.

After the heart has been removed, it will be placed on a special machine called the TransMedics Organ Care System (OCS). This is a portable machine which pumps blood to the coronary arteries of the heart restoring function. Once the heart is beating again it will be assessed by the surgeon to determine whether it is suitable for transplantation. The machine, with the heart beating continually, will then be transported back to Papworth to the awaiting recipient.

Endorsed by Cambridge University Health Partners


Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Papworth Everard
CB23 3RE

Telephone: +44 (0)1480 364448
Email: cpdevents@papworth.nhs.uk

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