Infectious Disease

New data shows that organ transplants decreased by 31% globally during the COVID-19 pandemic

08.09.2021

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A multinational study sheds light on the global transplant impact of COVID-19, with a 31% year-over-year decrease in solid organ transplants seen during the first wave of the pandemic.

According to study estimates, this decline resulted in a loss of patient life of around 48,000 years.

COVID-19 decline in transplants

The content of the infographic was adapted from Aubert O, et al. Lancet Public Health. 2021; doi: 10.1016 / S2468-2667 (21) 00200-0.

The data were simultaneously published in the Lancet Public Health and presented at the Congress of the European Society for Organ Transplantation in Milan in 2021.

Transplants in 2020 vs. 2019

“The first wave of COVID-19 had a devastating impact on the number of transplants in many countries, affected patient waiting lists and, regrettably, resulted in significant loss of life,” lead author Olivier Aubert, MD, Assistant professor at the Paris Translational Research Center for Organ Transplantation, said in a related press release.

For the study, researchers included transplant data from 22 countries and compared transplant activity during the pandemic (January 1 to December 30, 2020) with that of the previous year.

“Based on annual data available from the official WHO and the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation, 86,942 solid organs were procured for transplantation in the 22 countries included in 2019, representing 62.4% of total global transplant activity” write the researchers.

The results showed that transplant activity decreased in all countries studied, with kidney transplantation recording the largest decrease. In particular, the researchers observed that the number of living donor kidney transplants decreased by 40%, while the number of living donor liver transplants decreased by 33%.

In terms of deceased donor transplants, researchers found decreases of 12%, 9%, 17% and 5%, respectively, for kidney, liver, lung and heart transplants.

Understand global variations to improve “pandemic preparedness”

“Aside from the near universal reduction in transplant activity, some countries and regions have managed to conduct procedures despite the major challenges posed by the pandemic. These results require further analysis at regional, national and global levels to understand why reductions occurred or not, ”said Aubert of an observation that showed global variations in transplant activity (researchers found that while some countries increased transplant rates other countries saw a decrease of 90% or even discontinuation of kidney and liver transplants from living donors).

“The ability of certain countries, such as Germany and certain regions in the US, to maintain transplant volume despite the urgency to control the spread of COVID-19 is an important lesson for future waves of COVID-19 infection and other pandemics,” the researchers wrote . “Likewise, countries like Belgium and Italy have made efforts to maintain the volume of transplants despite a relatively higher number of deaths per million from COVID-19.

“… This study shows how international differences in medical practice can reveal opportunities for improving public health. Our research underscores the value of national transplant registries, which provide a comprehensive record of transplant procedures and allow cross-border control of organ use and transplant results. “

To this end, according to the press release, the authors have “developed an open access dashboard that interactively presents data for solid organ transplant activities and COVID-19 cases”.

“Understanding how different countries and health systems have responded to the challenges posed by COVID-19 can enable improved pandemic preparedness and how to safely maintain transplant programs to provide life-saving procedures for patients,” said Aubert.

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