Free-standing organ recovery centers could markedly improve efficiency and reduce costs associated with deceased organ donation, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Transplantation. The study's findings have major implications for cost containment and national policies related to organ transplantation.
Transplant surgeons have historically traveled to donor hospitals, where they perform complex, time-sensitive procedures with unfamiliar hospital staff. This often involves air travel and significant delays. In 2001, Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis established the nation's first organ recovery center and began to move brain-dead donors to this free-standing facility. The facility is located only a couple of miles from both of the transplant centers in the organ procurement organization's service area.
M.B. Majella Doyle, MD, of the Washington University School of Medicine, and her colleagues analyzed liver donors and recipients, donor costs, surgeon hours, and travel time associated with the 915 liver procurements that occurred in their center from April 2001 through December 2011. Among the major findings:
- In the first year, 36 percent (9/25) of organ recoveries occurred at the facility, rising to 93 percent (56/60) in the last year of analysis.
- Travel time was reduced from eight hours to 2.7 hours, with a reduction of surgeon fly outs by 93 percent (14/15) in 2011.
- Organ recovery costs were reduced by 37 percent at the facility compared with those at an acute care hospital, which indicates that transferring the donor to the facility early and performing all the investigations there saves money.
"The magnitude of these changes has been dramatic with no negative effects for the organ transplant process," said Dr. Doyle. "The concept of moving brain-dead organ donors to a free-standing organ recovery center is one that we believe has great merit and should be considered on a regional basis across the United States and in other countries where solid organ transplantation occurs from deceased donors," she added.