Organ donations and transplants fell in 2020 due to the epidemiological crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Spain continued to be the world leader in organ donation, according to the report of the World Registry of the National Transplant Organization (ONT) in collaboration with the WHO, whose data is collected every year in the ‘Transplant Newsletter’ of the Council of Europe.
Spain breaks record in organ donation with the management of thirty-eight transplants in one day
In general, the percentage of global transplantation activity decreased by 18% compared to 2019, with heart transplantation the best maintained, with an 8% decrease. Likewise, the number of deceased donors decreased by 13%, while that of living donors did so by 32%.
As the ONT text states, in 2020 122,341 transplants were carried out in the 82 countries that have participated in this edition of the ‘Transplant Newsletter’. Of these, 76,397 were kidney transplants, representing 30% living donors, 30,275 liver, 18% living donors, 7,840 heart, 5,765 lung, 1,910 pancreas and 151 intestine. These transplants were possible thanks to 34,739 deceased donors, in addition to 28,635 living donors.
Regarding donations, the European Union registered in 2020 a rate of 18.4 donors per million population (pmp), while Spain had a rate of 38 donors pmp, 19% of all donors in the European Union and 5% of those registered in the world, although the country barely represents 9% of the European population and 0.6% of the world population. This places Spain in the lead as the world leader in donation for another year, after 29 consecutive years. On the other hand, in 2020 a rate of 94.6 transplants pmp was reached, a figure only surpassed worldwide by the United States, with 120.6 transplants pmp
Despite the decrease in activity due to the pandemic, donation in cardiac arrest or asystole has remained active in the 22 countries that have this program, according to the ONT document. In this sense, Spain is the country in the world with the highest rate of asystole donors, representing 37% of all donors in cardiac arrest in the European Union. This practice is considered an essential strategy to ensure the availability of organs for transplantation.
The figures from the World Transplant Registry show the consequences that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the paralysis of transplants and donations. This is explained by the collapse of health systems and the saturation of intensive care units. Also due to the uncertainty about the impact of the coronavirus infection in the transplanted patient at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to some initial reluctance to transplant in an environment of sustained community transmission. In general, the global decrease in activity occurred during the first wave of the pandemic, and subsequently the countries gradually resumed their programs.
However, despite this epidemiological situation, the Spanish donation data registered in 2020 surpasses those of any other country in the world during the years prior to the health crisis. In total, last year 1,777 deceased donors and 270 living donors were registered in Spain, which allowed for more than 4,400 transplants: more than half kidney, 1,034 liver, 336 lung, 278 cardiac, 73 pancreatic and four intestinal.