The potential for organ donation in Iceland: A nationwide study of deaths in intensive care units

Þórður Páll Pálsson, Kristinn Sigvaldason, Thora E. Kristjansdottir, Thordur Thorkelsson, Asbjorn T. Blondal, Sigurbergur Kárason, Runólfur Pálsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The deceased organ donation rate in Iceland has been low compared with other Western countries. The aim of this study was to explore the potential for organ donation after brain death in Iceland. Methods: Observational cohort study of patients with catastrophic brain injury who died in intensive care units (ICUs) at hospitals in Iceland in 2003-2016. Medical records were retrospectively reviewed to identify potential donors (PDs), using the WHO Critical Pathway for Deceased Donation. Trends in annual incidence of PDs, conversion to actual donors, and family refusals were assessed. Results: Among 1537 patients who died in the ICU, 125 (8.1%) were identified as PDs. Of 103 PDs who were declared brain dead, consent for organ donation was pursued in 84 cases and granted in 63. Fifty-six became actual donors. The annual donation rate averaged 13 per million population (pmp), but rose abruptly in the final 2 years to 36 and 27 pmp, respectively. This was paralleled by an increase in annual incidence of PDs from an average of 28 pmp to 54 and 42 pmp, respectively. The donor conversion rate increased during the study period (P =.026). Twenty-three PDs (18%) were not pursued without an apparent reason. Conclusions: The donation rate increased markedly in the last 2 years of the study period after remaining low for more than a decade. This change can largely be explained by a high incidence of PDs and a low family refusal rate. Missed donation opportunities suggest a potential to maintain a high donation rate in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-669
Number of pages7
JournalActa Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the Landspitali University Hospital Research Fund. Part of this work was presented in an abstract form at the Icelandic Surgical Society Annual Congress in April 2017 and the XXIX Congress of the Scandinavian Transplant Society in Oslo, Norway, in May 2018.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica Foundation. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Other keywords

  • actual donors
  • brain death
  • conversion rate
  • family refusal
  • incidence
  • organ transplantation
  • potential donors
  • Líffæragjafir


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