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COVID-19 Has Taken a Toll on Organ Donation

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Sep 17th 2020

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THURSDAY, Sept. 17, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Transplants of organs from dead donors haven't slowed during the coronavirus pandemic, but living donor transplants remain suspended in many places, an expert says.

Dr. Fauzia Butt, a transplant surgeon at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., also said that organ donation and transplant surgery are safe during the pandemic.

"We've put protocols in place so that we can continue performing these lifesaving operations in ways that are safe for patients and health care providers," she said in a Penn State news release.

As of Sept. 6, 429 more deceased donor organ transplants had been performed in the United States this year than at the same time in 2019, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which manages the list of Americans awaiting an organ transplant.

Last year, a record 39,719 organ transplants were performed in the United States.

But while the number of deceased donor organ transplants this year is on track to surpass that number, nearly all U.S. transplant centers suspended living donor transplants in March.

While some centers, including Hershey Medical Center, have resumed living donor transplants, as of Sept. 6, there had 1,361 fewer compared to the same time last year.

While the suspension resulted in a fewer living donor transplants this year, it gave transplant centers time to put new safety measures into place, including screening of donors and recipients for COVID-19.

More than 109,000 people are currently on the U.S. organ transplant waiting list.

"There are always people in need," Butt said. "Don't let the fear of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 prevent you from potentially saving a life. We will perform all necessary testing to keep you safe and to make sure that donation is medically suitable for you."

More information

The United Network on Organ Sharing has more on organ transplantation.