Brain death-induced impairment of cardiac contractile performance can be reversed by explantation and may not preclude the use of hearts for transplantation.
The shortage of suitable donor hearts for cardiac transplantation is exacerbated by the exclusion of those that exhibit contractile malfunction during the period after brain death but before excision. We have replicated the phenomenon of brain death-induced hemodynamic deterioration in the rat in vivo. After 60 minutes of brain death (defined as the absence of electrical activity in the brain), a variety of indicators of cardiac contractile function fell by approximately 50% (thus cardiac index fell from 21 +/- 2 to 11 +/- 1 ml/min per 100 g body weight). However, once excised and perfused ex vivo, the hearts recovered a level of cardiac function that was identical to that from control animals that had not been subjected to brain death. Similarly, when hearts were excised, stored (6 hours at 4 degrees C), and reperfused ex vivo with blood, they also recovered a functional capability identical to that of normal hearts from animals that had not been subjected to brain death. Our results question whether hemodynamic instability in brain-dead individuals is necessarily an irreversible detrimental cardiac phenomenon and whether these hearts should be excluded from transplantation.
- Copyright © 1992 by American Heart Association