Infectious Disease

COVID-19 is inflicting a “profound” decline in transplant charges within the US, however the system is exhibiting “resilience”.

17th December 2020

2 min read

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An analysis of the United Network for Organ Sharing data suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on transplantation in the United States, particularly in the first few months.

“The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on the transplant health system has been abrupt, profound and unprecedented.” Rebecca R. Goff, PhD, United Network for Organ Sharing Research Department, and colleagues wrote.

COVID-19 and transplant

“This report details the early impact of the pandemic on the transplant system, including deceased and living donations, and transplant candidates and recipients in the US, and US responses [Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network] OPTN to mitigate adverse results. “

Using the data from January 2020 to September 2020, the researchers made several key observations. These included the following:

  • a decrease in new registrations on waiting lists (50% decrease in the northeast from the week of March 8, compared to the week of April 5);
  • an “almost complete cessation” of living donor transplants (a 90% decrease from the week of March 8th to the week of April 5th);
  • a 45% decrease in kidney transplant volume in deceased donors (70% for a lung, 43% for the heart, and 37% for the liver); and
  • A 45% decrease in deceased donors recovered from March 8th from April 5th.

From the last point, the researchers found that the largest percentage change was in the northeast, which was down 67%.

Despite these initial effects, Goff and colleagues also found evidence of recovery.

“OPTN data shows that donor and transplant numbers recovered significantly in mid-May,” they wrote. “Overall, organ use improved and transplants, both deceased and living donors, were approaching pre-pandemic levels. These observations suggest a resilient transplant system infrastructure that has adapted to a new clinical environment. ”

Still, Goff and colleagues felt that the effects of the pandemic needed to be addressed.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 deaths pile up, it appears that the impact of COVID-19 on the transplant system will not be a passing event,” they wrote. “There are sure to be lasting effects on the transplant system and health care.”

Subsequent waves of SARS-CoV-2 infections pose an ongoing challenge and concern for the entire healthcare system, according to Goff and colleagues.

“Successful response requires predictive policy and data collection, as well as incorporating clinical experience into planning and resource allocation,” it concluded. “The continued effective collaboration of the transplant community with its public partners and stakeholders should minimize the impact of persistent COVID-19 infections on the transplant system in the United States.”

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