Organ donation continues to be a life-and-death matter. The retrieval process has long been a bone of contention among medical professionals. Traditionally, transplant teams often travel long distances to remove and retrieve donated organs, then must rush to other locations to transplant the procurements into needy recipients.
It is vital to note that organs have a very finite shelf life–livers last about 6-10 hours after donor retrieval, the heart and lungs approximately half as long, while kidneys could remain viable up to 24 hours for transplantation purposes. A new experiment being conducted in the Midwest could present a solution that would not only save more lives but also dramatically cut costs. The study proposed that establishing centralized organ donor procurement locations would benefit the process of donation, retrieval, and transplantation in several ways and save more lives, as well as drastically reduce the costs associated with these procedures.
The study, which was performed at Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis, Missouri, examined the feasibility and potential benefits of moving donor bodies from hospitals to the stand-alone regional procurement facility, where medical teams skilled in organ donor retrieval techniques could have access to operating rooms designated for this purpose. The facility serves as the nation’s first stand-alone organ donor retrieval center and it services a region which includes parts of Missouri, Arkansas, and Illinois.
The results of the study that examined the benefits of centralized organ donation retrieval, which were published on February 25 in the American Journal of Transplantation, indicated several positive outcomes could be achieved from this scenario. First, it would significantly reduce frequent delays that accompany organ donor retrieval operations at traditional hospital settings due to over booked operating rooms, which significantly account for the absorbent costs associated with these procedures. The second benefit observed was a reduction in time organs spent outside the donor’s body, which profoundly increases the odds of successful transplantation to another. Another potential benefit is that surgeons could procure more usable organs from each donor in this setting. Additionally, there have been no negative effects whatsoever on the organ donation process. Perhaps the most impressive and significant outcome is the cost savings achieved in this experiment, which have medical professionals very hopeful that this template could become widespread throughout the country.
It is important to note the study in question has only examined this scenario with liver donor procurement. However, the preliminary results of this study have proven encouraging enough that transplant experts have stated this experiment could set a new standard. Moreover, medical groups in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and Michigan have initiated pilot programs to explore the feasibility of such stand-alone organ donor procurement facilities.
The centralization of organ donation retrieval still has its challenges to overcome despite the obvious benefits and additional life-saving capacity it boasts. It is rooted in common sense and somewhat of a foreign concept to the analytical, profit-margin-minded medical community. However, transplant experts believe the tide has turned and the practicality of stand-alone organ donor retrieval facilities will be realized. An additional point to be made in favor of stand-alone procurement facilities is the reduced risk of bodily harm to the transplant teams and donated organs that can often accompany long-distance organ retrieval missions, especially those performed in adverse weather conditions. This particular point can often be overlooked and not fully considered when factoring in the benefits of this scenario. When considering the bottom line, there are significant benefits and minimal costs associated with the concept of centralized organ donation retrieval facilities. Moreover, improving the efficiency and reducing costs associated with organ donation, retrieval, and transplantation procedures will enable medical professionals to save more lives.
Opinion By Leigh Haugh