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 today at the European Society for Organ Transplantation (ESOT) Congress 20211.
The research extracted international data from 22 countries across four continents and revealed major variations in the response of transplant programmes to the COVID-19 pandemic, with transplant activity dropping by more than 90 per cent 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 per cent) and liver (-33 per cent) transplants.
The research published 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.
Dr Olivier Aubert, Assistant Professor at the Paris Translational Research Centre for Organ Transplantation and 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”.
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.
Understanding how different countries and healthcare systems responded to COVID-19-related challenges can facilitate improved pandemic preparedness and how to safely maintain transplant programmes to provide life-saving procedures for patients.
To facilitate understanding of the temporal trends and consequences of the pandemic on organ transplant activities, researchers have created an open-access dashboard that presents data interactively for solid organ transplant activities and COVID-19 cases.