As a result of the corona pandemic the world’s health care system has come under pressure. This results in a fair number of new challenges as well as unanswered questions, including for transplant surgery. Because the increasing infection risk more future potential organ donors will have had an infection. For transplant surgeons this brings two important questions to the fore: what is the risk of passing on the infection from organ donor to organ recipient? And does COVID-19 cause irreversible damage to the lungs, making them unsuitable for transplantation?
When an organ donor dies, he is always screened for SARS-CoV-2 and the result has to be negative before he can donate his organs for transplantation. However, a negative test does not rule out that there are no remnants of the virus left deep in the lungs. After a transplant, viral remnants can trigger a new infection in the recipient. Such an infection is potentially very dangerous, because the patient will receive medication to suppress the immune system after the transplant, making him extra vulnerable for infections. Furthermore, research has shown that COVID-19 can have permanent consequences on the lung quality as a result of infections with lung scarring.