Organ transplants drop dramatically during pandemic

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(Brian Owens/ CMA Journal) — Hospitals are slowly resuming non-emergency procedures as outbreaks of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) wane across Canada. But for thousands of Canadians waiting for replacement organs, the pandemic continues to disrupt transplant operations and the supply of organs.

The slowdown of procedures to free up resources for patients with COVID-19 “delayed a number of living and deceased donations,” says Dr. Atul Humar, director of the transplant centre at Toronto’s University Health Network. “We’re turning down organs.”

Across Canada, most living donor kidney transplants have been postponed, except in exceptional circumstances, to ease pressure on hospitals and protect organ donors and recipients from COVID-19. But deceased donor transplants have also decreased sharply.

In Ontario, just 12 deceased donor transplants were performed in April this year, compared to between 32 and 47 in each of the previous five Aprils, according to the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which manages donations in the province. The network cautions that numbers of deceased donor transplants often fluctuate, so the drop may not be entirely due to the pandemic. However, other countries have seen similar declines, with deceased donor transplants falling by 90% in France and 50% in the United States during the pandemic. (…)

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