Though most elective surgeries were suspended at Strong Memorial Hospital nine weeks ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, surgeons there have performed a number of organ transplant procedures—17 liver, 8 kidney, and 3 heart—during that time. The numbers included a milestone 1,800th liver transplant since the hospital began doing the procedure in 1992.
“Patients who are on waiting lists for organ donations don’t have the luxury of time,” says Sunil Prasad, chief of cardiac surgery at Strong. “They have only a certain amount of time before their organs fail to the point of no return.”
Roberto Hernandez-Alejandro, chief of solid organ transplant surgery at Strong, says the hospital has taken a “cautious” approach in prioritizing which patients should receive transplants. Initially, for example, the hospital put a hold on all liver and kidney transplants involving living donors until it became clear Strong could manage COVID-19 patients and still have sufficient COVID-free areas to ensure the safety of both organ donors and recipients.
Last week, the hospital performed its first live-donor kidney transplant in nine weeks, with a second on Tuesday, and expects to resume live-donor liver transplants in June, Hernandez says. The hospital is now in the process of resuming other elective surgeries as well.