(HealthDay News) — Recipient overall survival is similar for overdose-death donor (ODD) and non-ODD cardiac transplants, according to a study published online in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

Katherine G. Phillips, from New York University Langone Health in New York City, and colleagues examined recipient and donor characteristics and organ discard with respect to ODDs and donors with other mechanisms of death using data on adult cardiac transplants from 2010 to 2017.

The researchers found that 10.8% of the 15,904 cardiac transplantations were from ODDs, representing about a 10-fold increase from 1.2% in 2000. ODDs were more often older than 40 years (87.2 vs 70.1%), had higher rates of substance abuse, were more likely to be hepatitis C-positive (1.3 vs 0.2%), and less often required inotropic support at procurement (38.4 vs 44.8%). The groups did not differ in terms of overall survival. Discarded ODD allografts were less likely to be discarded because of a diseased organ state (28.2 vs 36.1%), but they were more likely to be hepatitis C-positive (30.8 vs 5.3%) and to be identified as conveying an increased risk by the Public Health Services (63.3 vs 13.2%).

“We do not believe that overdose status alone is a valid reason to discard an otherwise viable donor heart, and this study supports that ODD organs should not be rejected due to inappropriate bias,” a coauthor said in a statement.


Phillips KG, Ranganath NK, Malas J, et al. Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Heart Transplantation: Donor Characteristics and Organ Discard. Ann Thorac Surg. doi:10.1016/j.athoracsur.2019.03.076