Trends in US Heart Transplant Waitlist Activity and Volume during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic

Ersilia M. Defilippis, Lauren Sinnenberg, Nosheen Reza, Michael M. Givertz, Michelle M. Kittleson, Veli K. Topkara, Maryjane A. Farr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Importance: Solid organ transplants have declined significantly during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the US. Limited data exist regarding changes in heart transplant (HT). Objective: To describe national and regional trends in waitlist inactivations, waitlist additions, donor recovery, and HT volume during COVID-19. Design, Setting, and Participants: This descriptive cross-sectional study used publicly available data from the United Network for Organ Sharing and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using 8 prespecified United Network for Organ Sharing regions. Adult (18 years or older) HT candidates listed and deceased donors recovered between January 19 to May 9, 2020. Exposures: COVID-19 pandemic. Main Outcomes and Measures: Changes in waitlist inactivations, waitlist additions, deceased donor recovery, and transplant volumes from the pre-COVID-19 (January 19-March 15, 2020) to the COVID-19 era (March 15-May 9, 2020). Density mapping and linear regression with interrupted time series analysis were used to characterize changes over time and changes by region. Results: During the COVID-19 era, there were 600 waitlist inactivations compared with 343 during the pre-COVID era (75% increase). Waitlist additions decreased from 637 to 395 (37% reduction). These changes were most profound in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions with high rates of COVID-19. Deceased donor recovery decreased by 26% from 1878 to 1395; the most significant decrease occurred in the North Midwest despite low COVID-19 prevalence. Heart transplant volumes were significantly reduced across all regions except the Northwest. The largest decrease was seen in the Northeast where COVID-19 case rates were highest. From the pre-COVID-19 era to the COVID-19 era, there was significant regional variation in waitlist additions (eg, 69% decrease in the Northeast vs 8.5% increase in the South Midwest; P <.001) and deceased donor recovery (eg, 41% decrease in North Midwest vs 16% decrease in South Midwest; P =.02). Conclusions and Relevance: Heart transplant volumes have been significantly reduced in recent months, even in regions with a lower prevalence of COVID-19 cases. This has been accompanied by increased waitlist inactivations, decreased waitlist additions, and decreased donor recovery. Future studies are needed to determine if the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with changes in waitlist mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1048-1052
Number of pages5
JournalJAMA Cardiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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