Hundreds of Americans in need of new hearts took themselves off transplant waitlists amid coronavirus fears as the number of donor organs collected fell by 26%
- From mid-January to mid-March, 343 people took themselves off the waitlist in comparison with 600 people who did from mid-March to mid-May, a 75% drop
- More than two-thirds of the 600 said they inactivated themselves due to COVID-19 precautions
- There was a 37% decrease in people who added themselves to the waitlist from 637 pre-pandemic to 395 in the pandemic era
- The number of available donors hearts fell by 26% from 1,878 in winter 2020 to 1,395 in spring 2020
Hundreds of Americans who needed new hearts took themselves off of waitlists amid the coronavirus pandemic.
About 75 percent more people inactivated themselves off the organ waitlist in comparison with the period before the pandemic.
What’s more, there was about one-quarter fewer donor organs were collected in spring 2020 than in winter of the same year.
The team, from New York– Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, says the findings are concerning because many people will never receive the new organs they so desperately and will die before undergoing a transplant.
A new study found that from mid-January to mid-March, 343 people took themselves off the waitlist in comparison with 600 people who did from mid-March to mid-May, a 75% drop (pictured)
The number of available donors hearts fell by 26% from 1,878 in winter 2020 to 1,395 in spring 2020 (pictured)
For the study, published in JAMA Cardiology, the team looked at data from the United Network for Organ Sharing and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They analyzed waitlist inactivations, waitlist additions, deceased donor recovery, and transplant volumes from January 19 to March 15, 2020 – before the coronavirus pandemic – and from March 15 to May 9, 2020, during the pandemic.
During the pre-COVID-19 era, there 343 people who took themselves off the waitlist in comparison with 600 people who did so during the pandemic – a decrease of 75 percent,
Of the 600, more than two-thirds, or 67 percent, reported that it was linked to COVID-19 precautions.
The Northeast (91 percent), Southwest (81 percent) and the Great Lakes (66 percent) regions saw the highest number of inactivations.
Researchers say it’s because these were the areas that had the highest number of coronavirus cases.
Additionally, only 395 people added themselves to the waitlist compared with 637 people pre-pandemic, a 37 percent drop.
The Northeast (91 percent), Southwest (81 percent) and the Great Lakes (66 percent) regions saw the highest number of inactivations due to high coronavirus caseloads (pictured)
However, there was a slight increase in one region, the South Midwest, which saw 8.5 percent more people themselves to the list than did pre-coronavirus.
Deceased donor recovery, meaning how often doctors were able to secure donor hearts for transplants, fell by 26 percent from 1,878 to 1,395.
The North Midwest saw the biggest drop at 41 percent, which surprised the team because of its relatively low virus rates.
Lastly, the number of heart transplants themselves decreased by 26 percent across the US from 525 operations in the pre–COVID-19 era to 389 in the COVID-19 era.
‘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,’ the authors wrote.
‘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.’
The number of heart transplants themselves decreased by 26% across the US from 525 operations in the pre–COVID-19 era to 389 in the COVID-19 era (file image)