Increased Survival Rates for TBI Patients Causes Donor Organ Shortage

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Brain Injury to Brain Death

Recent studies have shown that the advancements in traumatic brain injury treatment over the past decade have allowed more people to survive traumatic brain injuries. While this is good news for everyone ever affected by a brain injury, including the families and friends of those injured, there is one group who isn’t benefiting from improved survival rates: patients waiting for donated organs for transplant.

CNN reports that Canadian researchers have found the more traumatic brain injury survival rates increase, the fewer transplant organs available. Considering there is already a shortage of organs available to donors causing them to wait for years to receive a transplant, the impact of improved TBI survival rates could be massive on donor patients.

The study, published last week in the Canadian medical Association Journal (CAMJ), investigated the outcomes of 2,788 adult patients admitted to regional intensive care units in Alberta Canada, over a 10.5 year period.

“Prior to the study, we had noticed a decline in the number of deceased organ donors in Southern Alberta,” said Dr. Andreas Kramer, lead author of the study. “Since we were seeing fewer patients with brain injuries, we thought we would find fewer patients progressing to neurological death.”

The researchers had their beliefs confirmed when examining ICU patients with various types of brain injuries. The greatest increase in survival rates were found among those with traumatic brain injuries.
Of course, these types of problems are welcome by the medical community. It shows the need to maximize opportunities for organ donation for those who are taken by brain death, but the overall impact is positive. Patient outcomes have been steadily improving for TBI patients over the past decade, and we’ve reached a point where we are seeing the negative outcomes of the overall positive change.

The improvements may have caused there to be even less organs available to patients gravely in need of a transplant, but now that we have identified the cause we can begin to work on solutions.

“The reason why research like ours is important is because it helps us put our finger on the pulse of what’s going on, plan ahead, moving forward with appropriate strategies,” Kramer said.

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