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Original article

Vol. 151 No. 0506 (2021)

Impact of cardiopulmonary resuscitation on organ donation in Switzerland

Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2021;151:w20413



The lack of suitable donor organs limits the number of solid organ transplants. Patients who underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after cardiac arrest may represent a sizeable subgroup of deceased organ donors, as they often progress to brain death or have life-sustaining therapy withdrawn. We aimed to quantify deceased organ donation after CPR in Switzerland for the first time by analysing the characteristics of potential and utilised organ donors after CPR.


Data on deceased adult and paediatric patients who were reported to and approved by Swisstransplant for organ donation were analysed, including both donation after brain death (DBD) and donation after controlled cardiocirculatory death (cDCD) from 2016 to 2018. We analysed baseline characteristics of potential donors who underwent CPR in the context of their hospitalisation, as compared with donors without prior CPR. Considering the varying characteristics between these two donor groups, we assessed the effect of CPR on different allocation outcomes (donor and organ utilisation, organ yield per utilised donor) using multivariable regression. Additionally, we present selected CPR circumstances and compared different subgroups of CPR donors according to duration of CPR and duration of no-flow time.


Of the 461 deceased potential organ donors included in the analysis, 173 (37.5%) underwent CPR. CPR donors were, on average, younger (median age 53 vs 62, p <0.001), had different causes of death (p <0.001), and were more often of the cDCD type (30.1% vs 18.4%, p = 0.004) as compared with non-CPR donors. Of the 173 CPR donors, 152 (87.9%) could be utilised (minimum one organ transplanted), and in the multivariable analysis, utilisation rate was higher in the CPR donor group than in the non-CPR donor group (odds ratio 3.3, 95% confidence interval 1.1–11.5; p = 0.046). Organ specific utilisation of heart, liver, and kidney, and total organ yield per donor, did not differ significantly between CPR and non-CPR donors.


Our study reveals that a substantial proprotion of deceased organ donors in Switzerland underwent CPR in context of their hospitalisation. CPR donors are different from non-CPR donors with respect to age, cause of death and donation type. However, when carefully selected according to their haemodynamic condition, CPR donors are comparable to non-CPR donors in terms of donor and organ utilisation, as well as the average organ yield. Thus, all patients who are resuscitated from cardiac arrest but who subsequently progress to death should be evaluated for organ donation. How CPR donors compare with non-CPR donors regarding transplant outcomes should be studied further.


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