Anji E. Wall, Briget Da Graca, Sumeet K. Asrani, Richard Ruiz, Hoylan Fernandez, Amar Gupta, Eric Martinez, Johanna Bayer, Gregory McKenna, Seung He Lee, James F. Trotter, Giuliano Testa

A cost comparison of liver acquisition fees for donation after circulatory death versus donation after brain death donors

  • Transplantation
  • Hepatology
  • Surgery

Donation after circulatory death (DCD) donors now represent over 30% of the deceased donor pool in the United States. Compared to donation after brain death (DBD), DCD donation is less likely to result in transplantation. For each potential donor whose organs cannot be utilized for transplantation (i.e., dry run), fees are associated with the attempted donation, which add to the overall costs of organ acquisition. To better characterize the true costs of DCD liver acquisition, we performed a cost comparison of the fees associated with organ acquisition for DCD versus DBD donation at a single transplant institute comprised of two liver transplant centers. Cost, recipient, and transportation data for all cases, including fees associated with liver acquisition from July 1, 2019, to October 31, 2021, were collected. We found that the total cost of DCD liver acquisition per liver transplant was $15,029 more than that for DBD donation, with 18% of the costs of the DCD transplant attributed to dry runs. Overall, the costs associated with DCD transplantation accounted for 34.5% of the total organ acquisition costs; however, DCD transplantation accounted for 30.3% of the transplantation volume. Because the expansion of DCD donation is essential to increasing the availability of liver grafts for transplantation, strategies need to be implemented to decrease the costs associated with dry runs, including using local recovery, transferring donors to hospitals close to transplant centers, and performing more pre-recovery organ analysis. Moreover, these strategies are needed to ensure that financial disincentives to DCD procurement and utilization do not reverse the gains made by expanding the organ donor pool using machine perfusion technologies.

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