Organ transplants declined worldwide after COVID-19 arrived, study shows

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Aug. 31 (UPI) — COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on a number of health and medical services worldwide, but solid organ transplants have especially decreased during the global health emergency, according to a study posted in the Lancet.

The research, presented at the European Society for Organ Transplantation, shows that kidney, liver, lung and heart transplants in nearly two dozen countries significantly declined, by 31%, during the first wave of coronavirus cases last year.

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The study was published Monday in The Lancet Public Health.

Researchers say data from 22 countries revealed a worldwide reduction in transplant activity during the first three months of the pandemic and again from October to December. The figures were compared to similar data from 2019.

“We assessed the effect of the pandemic on the worldwide organ transplantation rate and the disparity in transplant numbers within each country,” the authors wrote. “We estimated the number of waitlisted patient life-years lost due to the negative effects of the pandemic.”

The overall decline in transplants by the end of 2020, the study said, was 16% and amounted to about 11,200 fewer transplants globally.

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Researchers said kidney transplants saw the greatest decline, followed by lung, liver and heart procedures.

In the United States, there was a 4% overall decline in transplants. There, lung transplants were most affected.

In Britain, NHS Blood and Transplant noted a decline to 80% of normal transplant activity and said more than 100 patients died on waiting lists in 2020 than in 2019.

“The data also suggests living transplants saw a greater decline that those from deceased donors, with the researchers noting there may have been additional logistical and ethical difficulties as well as concerns around exposing living donors to COVID in hospitals,” the authors wrote, according to The Guardian. “In some areas, living donor kidney and liver transplantation ceased.”