Written by Kara Morris
MONDAY, Oct. 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) — A person with heart failure in desperate need of a new heart may have experienced delays in getting a new heart during the pandemic when potential donors tested positive for COVID-19.
Since some centers are starting to accept these hearts for transplant anyway, data from a new study shows that hearts from COVID-19-positive donors may be as safe for transplantation as those from someone without the virus.
“These findings suggest that we may be more aggressive about accepting donors who test positive for COVID-19 when patients are in urgent need of an organ for a heart transplant,” said study author Samuel Kim, a third-year medical student in medical school. David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.
The study, which will be presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting November 5-7 in Chicago, reviewed the cases of transplant recipients in the first 30 days after surgery using the United Network for Organ Sharing database.
The database included information on all heart transplants in adults in the United States from February 2021 to March 2022. Of a total of 3,289 heart donations, 84 were from donors with MERS-CoV.
The researchers found that both groups of donor organ recipients had similar death rates in the hospital and 30 days after transplant. They also have similar rates of complications. This included lung complications or organ rejection.
For patients with hearts from people without COVID-19, the average hospital stay was 17 days. It’s been 15 days for those receiving a heart from a donor with COVID.
Organ rejection occurred in 2.4% of recipients from donors with COVID-19. It happened in 1% of the others.
About 97% of those who received hearts from donors survived without the virus, and 96.1% of those who received hearts from people with HIV survived.
The study found that none of the four patients who died after receiving a heart from a donor infected with MERS-CoV died of respiratory or infection causes.
The researchers expressed surprise at the results.
“Specifically, we thought death from respiratory or lung related causes would be a problem among recipients receiving COVID-19 donor hearts,” Kim said in a Heart Association news release. “However, we did not find such differences, and in fact, this study provides early evidence that COVID-19-positive donor hearts may be as safe as hearts without COVID-19 for heart transplant.”
The 2022 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology/American Heart Failure Association guidelines for the management of heart failure recommend a heart transplant for people who progress to advanced (stage D) heart failure.
By the time they reach stage D, people experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling that interferes with daily life. This could lead to repeated hospitalizations.
In the United States, 3,658 people received hearts in 2020, up from 1,676 in 1988, according to the 2022 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics from the American Heart Association.
More than 3,400 Americans are currently waiting for a heart.
“Despite the growing need for this operation, there is an ongoing shortage of donor organs available for people who need a transplant. The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse with an increase in the rate of donors testing positive for COVID-19, generally making donors unsuitable for transplantation. “. “However, many academic centers have started using COVID-19-positive donor hearts for heart transplants in recent months and have reported good results.”
However, the study size was small. Long-term studies are needed to assess how patients who receive hearts from donors with COVID-19 skip 30 days after surgery, researchers said.
Dr. Eldrin Lewis, who has advanced heart failure and a heart transplant specialist, is Simon H. Stertzer Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and chair of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University in California.
“In turn, this may help address the shortage of donor hearts for transplantation and reduce waiting times, because people often develop disease as heart failure progresses while waiting for a donor heart to become available,” Lewis said in the statement.
Results presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.
Source: American Heart Association press release, October 31, 2022