Organ transplants fell by a third worldwide during first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, new study presented at ESOT Congress 2021 shows


MILAN, Aug. 31, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The number of solid organ transplants performed during the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020 plunged by 31% compared to the previous year, according to a new global study presented at the European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT) Congress 2021.

According to modelling calculations, the slowdown in transplants resulted in more than 48,000 years of patient life loss.

The research leveraged data from 22 countries and revealed major variations in the response of transplant programmes to the COVID-19 pandemic, with transplant activity dropping by more than 90% in some countries.

Kidney transplantation showed the largest reduction across nearly all countries during 2020 compared to 2019, with the study finding a decrease in living donor kidney (-40%) and liver (-33%) transplants. For deceased donor transplants, there was a reduction in kidney (-12%), liver (-9%), lung (-17%) and heart (-5%) transplants.

The research, published today in the Lancet Public Health, highlighted how some countries managed to sustain the rate of transplant procedures whilst others experienced serious reductions in the number of transplants compared to the previous year and, in some areas, living donor kidney and liver transplantation ceased completely. Overall, there was a strong temporal association between increased COVID-19 infection rate and reductions in deceased and living solid organ transplants.

Dr Olivier Aubert, lead author of the study, commented, “The first wave of COVID-19 had a devastating impact on the number of transplants across many countries, affecting patient waiting lists and regrettably leading to a substantial loss of life.”

Professor Alexandre Loupy, head of the Paris Translational Research Center for Organ Transplantation and study author, furthered, “Living donor transplantation, which reduced more substantially, requires significant resources and planning compared to deceased donors. This is extremely difficult during a pandemic and there are also major ethical concerns for the safety of the donor.”

“It’s clear that there are many indirect deaths associated with COVID-19 and our study confirms that the pandemic has far-reaching consequences on many medical specialties.”

The estimated numbers of life-years lost were 37,664 years for patients waitlisted for a kidney, 7,370 for a liver, 1,799 years for a lung, and 1,406 for a heart, corresponding to a total 48,239 life-years lost.


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