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BACKGROUND: Eighty percent of donor organs come from donors who have suffered brain trauma (brain-dead donors). This unphysiological state alters the hemodynamic and hormonal status of the organ donor. This can cause organ injury, which has been suggested to alter the immunological or inflammatory status of the organ after transplantation, and may lead to increased sensitivity of the organ to preservation/transplantation injury. In this study we asked the question: does brain death cause injury to the liver that decreases successful liver preservation? METHODS: The rat liver transplant model was used to compare survival in rats receiving a liver from a brain-dead donor versus a non-brain-dead donor. Brain death was induced by inflation of a cranially placed balloon catheter. The rats were maintained normotensive with fluid infusion for 6 hr. The livers were flushed with University of Wisconsin (UW) solution and immediately transplanted or cold stored for 20 hr before transplantation. RESULTS: Recipient survival with immediately transplanted livers or those stored for 20 hr was 100% with livers from non-brain-dead donors. However, survival decreased when livers were procured from brain-dead donors. Survival was 75% (6/8) when storage time was 0 hr and 20% (2/10) when the liver was cold stored for 20 hr before transplantation. CONCLUSION: This study shows that brain death induces alterations in the donor liver that make it more sensitive to preservation/reperfusion injury than livers from donors without brain death. The mechanism of injury to the liver caused by brain death is not known. Because most livers used clinically for transplantation come from brain-dead donors, it is possible that poor function of these livers is due to the intrinsic condition of the donor organ, more than the quality of the preservation. Methods to treat the brain-dead donor to improve the quality of the liver may be needed to allow better preservation of the organ and to give better outcome after liver transplantation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1632 - 1636


Animals, Brain Death, L-Lactate Dehydrogenase, Liver, Liver Transplantation, Male, Organ Preservation, Rats, Rats, Inbred BN, Tissue Donors