Organ Transplants Dropped by Two Thirds During Lockdown

Dawn O'Shea

August 24, 2020

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On March 23, the same day that the UK government announced lockdown restrictions, NHS Blood and Transplant altered the age acceptance criteria for deceased donors to protect intensive care unit bed capacity and maximize the use of available organs. The maximum age for donation after brain death was reduced from 85 years to 60 years (increased to age 75 years after April 7), and the maximum age for donation after circulatory death was reduced from 80 years to 50 years. These changes would, in ordinary times, be expected to reduce actual donor numbers by approximately 47%.

However, a study by NHS Blood and Transplant, published in the Lancet, has found that, between March 23 and May 10, the number of deceased donors dropped by 66% compared with the same period in 2019, and the number of deceased donor transplants dropped by 68%, larger decreases than were estimated.

The number of referrals of potential donors decreased by 39%, although families continued to support donation, with a 74% consent rate.

Abdominal organ transplants, particularly kidneys, were substantially reduced during the lockdown compared with the same period in 2019, but heart transplants, although reduced, were not as affected, and accounted for 9% of all transplants compared with 5% in 2019.

Since the relaxation of the lockdown measures, the upper age limit for donation after circulatory death has been increased to 60 years, three suspended renal programs have re-opened and many specialist nurses have returned to their usual roles.

Further data are now needed on the morbidity and mortality due to SARS-CoV-2 infection in transplant recipients and those awaiting transplantation.

Manara AR, Mumford L, Callaghan CJ, Ravanan R, Gardiner D. Donation and transplantation activity in the UK during the COVID-19 lockdown. Lancet. 2020;396(10249):465-466. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31692-5. PMID: 32798484 Abstract, Full text

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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