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Organs donated and eligible organ donors in UK both fell by around 30% during the first and second waves of the COVID pandemic.

Research published in Anaesthesia reveals the impact of COVID on organ donation in the UK, with both eligible organ donors and actual organ donations falling by 30% during the first year of the pandemic.

The comprehensive study analyzing UK data is by Dr. Dan Harvey, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK, and Clinical Lead for Innovation and Research Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), and Dr. Nicholas Plummer, cleocin gel for acne Specialist Registrar in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham, UK, and colleagues.

The national audit data from NHSBT—the agency that oversees donation in the UK—show that in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 11, 2020 to March 10, 2021) the total number of donations fell by 30% from 1,620 to 1,140 when compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Adjusted numbers of donors and organs retrieved were inversely dependent on Intensive Care Unit burdens of COVID-19 patients, though weekly numbers of transplants were unrelated. There were overall around 30% fewer eligible donors (4,282) in the first year of the pandemic when compared with the previous year (6,038). This was partly because there were fewer in-hospital deaths from conditions more frequently associated with donation, such as cardiac arrest (down 17%) and intracranial catastrophes (down 12%) throughout the first year of the pandemic.

The pandemic also led, both directly and indirectly, to increased numbers of people who died in the community who might otherwise have died in hospital and been eligible donors. However, even though absolute numbers were down, the proportion of eligible donors who proceeded to donation (27%) was unchanged in the year of the study compared to the year before the pandemic.

The authors say that despite all these challenges, “The relative proportion of eligible donors proceeding to donation and the relationship between retrieved organs and transplantations remained constant, suggesting a resilient organ donation and transplantation system despite unprecedented pressures placed on ICU and the wider healthcare system.”

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