For surgeons like Doyle, another consideration is reduced personal risk. Some 30 members of surgical teams have been killed by crashes en route by car, plane, or helicopter to and from the brain-dead donor's hospital. In 2007 a four-person transplant team and two pilots from the University of Michigan Medical Center were killed as their plane attempted to take off from Milwaukee.
In an effort to inform other hospitals and OPOs about their success, Doyle wrote up the MTS experience just in liver transplants in a paper in the American Journal of Transplantation.
Cost Savings a 'Game Changer'
Of 915 liver transplants performed at Barnes Jewish Hospital/Washington University from 2001 to 2011, she wrote, 93% of the organs are now recovered at the procurement center as opposed to the hospital. The cost of processing the donor after brain death is reduced 37% when the procurement center does the preparation rather than the donor hospital.
And travel time for Barnes Jewish/Washington University's surgeons went form eight hours per case down to 2.7.
Calculating the cost for processing of all brain-dead donors transported to the St. Louis facility costs 45% to 50% less than having those services performed at the donor hospital, says Diane Brockmeier, MTS' COO.
This is, Doyle says "a huge game changer for the field of transplantation. It amazes me that people still don't know about it."
Richard Pietroski, CEO of Michigan's OPO, says Gift of Life has moved 220 brain-dead donors to its Ann Arbor surgical center over the last three years, and is currently transferring 80% of its brain dead cases. The other 20% have organs recovered at the originating hospital, perhaps because the family members didn't agree or because the donor required a special kind of maintenance care.