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Open Access Research article

Accept or refuse? Factors influencing the decision-making of transplant surgeons who are offered a pancreas: results of a qualitative study

Julika Loss1*, Karl P Drewitz1, Hans J Schlitt2 and Martin Loss2

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Sociology, University of Regensburg, Franz-Josef-Strauss-Allee 11, Regensburg D-93053, Germany

2 Department of Surgery, University Hospital Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

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BMC Surgery 2013, 13:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-13-47

Published: 23 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Most offered pancreases are not transplanted. This study investigates the factors that inform and influence the transplant surgeon’s decision to select an offered pancreas.

Methods

Semi-standardized interviews were conducted with 14 highly qualified transplant surgeons from all 14 German transplant centers performing > 5 pancreas transplantations per year. The interviews focused on medical and non-medical criteria on which the individual accept/refuse decision depends. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and underwent content analysis.

Results

The interviewees agreed upon certain main selection criteria, e.g. donor age, lab results, ICU stay. However, there was no consistency in judging these parameters, and clear cut-offs did not exist. The pancreas macroscopy is a pivotal factor, as well as knowing (and trusting) the donor surgeon. 3/14 surgeons reported that they had occasionally refused a pancreas because of staff shortage. Some interviewees followed a restrictive acceptance policy, whereas others preferred to accept almost any pancreas and inspect it personally before deciding.

Conclusion

The assessment of medical donor characteristics is highly inconsistent. Both very cautious as well as very permissive acceptance policies may render the allocation process less efficient. A more standardized policy should be discussed. Finally, better training for donor surgeons seems advisable, in order to increase trust and thus pancreas utilization.

Keywords:
Pancreas transplantation; Under-utilization; Allocation process; Refusal