“Transplant programs have been challenged with balancing patient and staff safety with hospital resources, including intensive care unit capacity and personnel,” wrote Ersilia M. DeFilippis, MD, Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues. “In the U.S., there has been a substantial reduction in deceased donor solid organ transplants since the COVID-19 pandemic started. However, to our knowledge, limited data exist regarding national and regional changes in heart transplant practices during this time.”
DeFilippis et al. tracked UNOS data from Jan. 19 to May 9, 2020, comparing pre-COVID-19 statistics (Jan. 19 to March 15) with active COVID-19 statistics (March 15 to May 9).
These are four key takeaways from the team’s research:
1. Waitlist inactivations increased by 75%, from 343 to 600.
2. Waitlist additions dropped 37%, from 637 to 395.
3. Adult deceased donor recovery dropped 26%, from 1,878 to 1,395.
4. Heart transplant volume dropped 26%, from 525 transplants to 389 transplants.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had direct and indirect associations with heart transplants in the U.S.,” the authors concluded. “In addition to challenges regarding safety and resource allocation, changes in behaviors and activity as a result of social distancing measures will continually affect the deceased donor pool. Furthermore, we must be prepared for more inactivations and fewer transplants if and when future surges of COVID-19 cases occur. In the coming months, the consequences of these waitlist inactivations and decreased transplant volumes on waitlist mortality must be surveilled.”