After a slowdown, organ donations and transplants picking up in T.N.

The number is inching towards the pre-pandemic levels

April 08, 2022 07:22 pm | Updated April 09, 2022 12:47 am IST - CHENNAI

Organ donations and transplants are slowly picking up in Tamil Nadu. The number is inching towards the pre-pandemic levels, with March alone registering donations from 12 deceased donors.

COVID-19 slowed down organ donations and transplants. The factors at play included lockdown and the focus of government hospitals on COVID-19 management.

According to the Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu (TRANSTAN), 745 major organs and 352 tissues were harvested from 161 donors in the last two years during the pandemic — from May 2020 to April 6, 2022.

The number of donations increased from one in May 2020 to five-six cases in October-November 2020. It went up further to 10 cases in October 2021. “The donations picked up before the Omicron-induced third wave of infections when we crossed the 10-donor mark in a month. We have almost reached the pre-pandemic levels now,” said R. Kanthimathy, member-secretary of TRANSTAN. In March this year, 68 organs and tissues were harvested from 12 donors.

In fact, there has been a reversal of roles, she said. “Government hospitals (GHs) went to private hospitals and other GHs to retrieve organs and utilised them.” In the last one year, GHs utilised kidneys from private hospitals. While Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) utilised seven, Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, utilised three and Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital utilised two kidneys, she said.

The latest organ donation took place at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital, Tiruchi, on April 7. While the hospital utilised one kidney, the other was allocated to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital, officials said.

What is the need of the hour? “Brain death identification should be converted into brain dead donation. This is the most crucial step. Maintenance of the brain dead person is the gray area. There is a need for a multidisciplinary approach. The first 48 hours is the golden period during which conversion and retrieval of organs should take place,” Dr. Kanthimathy said.

In a step towards improving organ donations and transplants, TRANSTAN has asked all government medical colleges to take steps to obtain transplant licences. As on date, 12 government hospitals and the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology hold transplant licences. “We have asked all district hospitals to get licences to serve as non-transplant organ retrieval centres to facilitate organ donation,” she said.

Official sources said road accidents and fatalities reduced during the pandemic. The survival rate of persons involved in accidents has improved with good emergency care across the State.

E. Theranirajan, dean of RGGGH, said during a recent workshop on Deceased Organ Donation that during the pandemic, their concentration was fully on COVID-19 management. “We are taking measures to resume the programme. We are setting up a separate intensive care unit for maintenance of brain dead persons. There are a number of challenges in maintaining a brain dead person. So we have formed a special team comprising doctors from neuro-medicine, neuro-surgery, anaesthesia, nephrology and medicine. We have insisted that brain death needs to be certified whether or not there is organ donation,” he said.

While kidney transplants were being performed, he said they were taking measures to take up liver transplantation too.

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