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Screening for organ and tissue donation is an essential skill for emergency physicians. In 2015, 4,631 Canadians were on a waiting list for a transplant, and 262 died while waiting. Canada’s donation rates are less than half of comparable countries, so it is essential to explore strategies to improve the referral of donors. Poisoned patients may be one such underutilized source for donation. This study explores physician practices and perceptions regarding the referral of poisoned patients as donors.
In this cross-sectional unidirectional survey, 1,471 physician members of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians were invited to participate. Physicians were presented with 20 scenarios and asked whether they would refer the patient as a potential organ or tissue donor. Results were reported descriptively, and associations between demographics and referral patterns were assessed.
Physicians totalling 208 participated in the organ or tissue donation scenarios (14.1%); 75% of scenarios involving poisoning were referred for organ or tissue donation, compared with 92% in a non-poisoning scenario. Poisons associated with lower referrals included sedatives, acetaminophen, chemical exposure, and organophosphates. A total of 175 physicians completed the demographic survey (11.9%). Characteristics associated with increased referrals included previous referral experience, donation training, donation support, >10 years of service, urban practice, emergency medicine certification, and male gender.
Scenarios involving poisoning were referred less often when compared with an ideal scenario. Because poisoning is not a contraindication for referral, this represents a potential source of donors. Targeted training and referral support may help improve donation rates in this demographic.
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