Surgeons are concerned that organ availability will decrease because new organ transplant guidelines call for stricter testing of organ donors.

Issued by the CDC, the guidelines call for more updated and modern screening tests on organs being considered for transplant,  recommending that organ donors be checked for HIV and hepatitis B and C using the most sensitive screening method, known as nucleic acid testing.

Between 2007 and 2010, the CDC found more than 200 cases of suspected HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C transmission through transplants; some of the cases resulted in the deaths of the organ recipients. More disturbingly, the CDC also discovered that as of 2008, only about half of the 58 organ procurement organizations in this country voluntarily tested for HIV and hepatitis C on all or some of the potential donors.

Nucleic-acid testing can detect an infection acquired 7 days before testing. Standard blood tests measures antibodies to an infection that may take months to appear. Only about half of procurement labs in the country voluntary use the newer test, but it can double screening costs.

While surgeons fully support guidelines that may help to decrease disease transmission, they feel that this concern should be balanced with the risks of dying without an organ transplant.

However, organs that test positive for infections other than HIV can still be transplanted; stricter screening would just make physicians more aware of potential complications of infections when they do occur.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know…

  • Are surgeons overreacting or will stricter screening delay the process and drive up medical costs?