They have not yet reached pre-pandemic levels, but both organ donation and transplants are beginning to somehow overcome the health crisis, also adapting to this new reality. Spain made 4,781 transplants in 2021, which represents an increase of 8% compared to last year (when 4,425 were performed), marked by the pandemic, according to the activity balance of the National Transplant Organization (ONT). Despite everything, these last two years, the levels were higher than those set by any other country at a time when there was no coronavirus.
With a maximum of 49 donors per million people, a national donation record was reached in 2019, which fell to a rate of 37.4 in 2020 and has risen to 40.2 donors in 2021, a sign of the recovery also of activity once the pandemic advances.
Despite everything, Spain doubles the average of the European Union (18.4) in donations and is once again the world leader, followed by the US (38) and Italy (21.5). By autonomous communities, Cantabria stands out in the lead (72.4 donations per million inhabitants), with the entire Cantabrian coast, the Valencian Community (50.3) and Murcia (52.3). In contrast, La Rioja (22.6) and Madrid (27.1) are further from the national average.
The data, presented this Friday by the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, and the general director of the ONT, Beatriz Dominguez-Gil, They also point to a new reality: that of transplants and Covid-19. Until last year, any person who died and was a donor was required to have a negative PCR, but aware that opportunities were being lost and counting on the available scientific evidence, according to Domínguez-Gil, there have been up to 143 transplants of deceased for any other reason but who had passed the coronavirus, of which up to 14 maintained a positive PCR. These were given an “individualized risk-benefit assessment”, detailed the director of the transplant program. As for living donors, if they presented a positive Covid test, it was enough to delay the intervention.
“It has been the year of recovery in terms of donation and transplantation, after the Covid-19 slowed down in 2020 the continuous rise that Spain had been experiencing year after year,” the minister remarked.
Regarding the profile of the donors, the average age in 2021 is 59 years: more than half, on the other hand, were over 60 years old and 28% over 70. During 2021, the oldest donor was 91 years old, a sign, according to Dr. Domínguez-Gil, that “chronological age in itself is not a limit for donation.” Most of the organs that were performed were kidney (2,950) and liver (1,078). Behind it are the lungs (362), heart (302), pancreas (82) and intestines (7). In addition, despite the severity of the pandemic, in 2021 the transplant of 227 patients in zero urgency, in which “their life depended on a thread”, 159 children and 123 hyperimmunized kidney patients, who had “enormous difficulty finding a compatible organ”.
As for the waiting list, until 4,762 needed a transplant at the end of 2021, of which 66 were children. The figure is very similar to that of the previous year -4,794 and 92 children- and is due, according to the director of the ONT, to the relaxation of the requirements once there are more possibilities of finding a compatible organ.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism