In early April, the number of deceased donor organ transplants dropped by 51.1% in the United States and 90.6% in France when compared to a month earlier, the study said.
Kidney transplantations had the greatest decrease in numbers, but heart, lung and liver transplantations also had substantial reductions, the authors said. The study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, combined organ procurement data from federal agencies in the United States and France.
“We noted a strong temporal association between the increase in Covid-19 infections and a striking reduction in overall solid-organ transplantation procedures,” the researchers said.
One explanation for the reduction could be concern that transplant recipients are more susceptible to infection, according to the researchers. Another concern is that there aren’t enough resources in terms of staff or equipment in hospitals to care for patients after transplantation.
Decisions about how to use limited medical resources “could be especially devastating for the thousands of patients in need of an organ transplant,” the authors wrote. “While living donor organ transplants could presumably be rescheduled for a future date, deceased donor organs must be procured immediately or the opportunity is lost.”
There wasn’t a clear association between reductions in organ transplantation rates and Covid-19 hotspots, suggesting a global and nationwide effect beyond local infections, the researchers said.
Patients who require organ transplants often are at end-stage organ failure, the final and permanent stage in organ damage.
In the United States, approximately 40,000 patients receive an organ transplant every year, but 120,000 patients remain on a waiting list for transplantation, with 7,600 individuals dying annually while waiting for an organ transplant, according to the researchers.