Thyroid hormone levels in heart and kidney cadaver donors

R. R.M. Gifford, A. S. Weaver, J. E. Burg, P. J. Romano, L. M. Demers, J. L. Pennock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Experimental animal work has shown that thyroid hormone levels become undetectable 9 hours after brain death. It is unknown whether such an acutely hypothyroid state contributes to the hemodynamic instability of brain-dead donors or whether these donors should be resuscitated with thyroid hormone. No previous clinical study has examined thyroid hormone levels in human brain-dead organ donors. We retrospectively examined the thyroid hormone levels as measured by triiodothyronine and thyroxine in 22 human cadaver donors. Eight donors provided heart and kidney allografts, and the remaining 12 were kidney donors only. No donor had a normal triiodothyronine level and 10 were below normal, with undetectable levels in 12. Thyroxine levels were normal in 10 and below normal in 12. In comparing donors with below normal to undetectable triiodothyronine levels and donors with normal to below normal thyroxine levels, no statistically significant differences were found regarding blood pressure during harvest, duration of harvest, or dopamine requirements during harvest. Donors with a closed-head injury plus multiple injuries had statistically lower thyroxine values than donors with only a closed-head injury. For the heart donors, no correlation was found between thyroid hormone levels and the duration or dose of dopamine required for the heart allograft recipients after transplant. The incidence of acute tubular necrosis in the kidney transplants did not correlate with the donor thyroid hormone levels. Although we have demonstrated the presence of acute chemical hypothyroidism in brain-dead human donors to a similar degree as observed in the experimental baboon model, we have been unable to correlate thyroid hormone levels with compromised hemodynamic parameters or functional outcomes of the transplanted allografts, which would influence us to use triiodothyronine supplementation in resuscitating future cadaver donors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-253
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Heart Transplantation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Transplantation


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