The number of organ transplants in Türkiye has decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the world for almost three years. A particularly large drop in heart and lung transplants has been seen. Some 22,735 individuals in Türkiye are on the waiting list for organ and tissue transplants as of Organ Donation Week (Nov. 3-9), according to the Ministry of Health.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, there were 84 heart transplants performed in Türkiye in 2019, 21 in 2020, and 24 in 2021. While 21 lung transplants occurred in 2021 compared to 33 in 2019. According to Eyüp Kahveci, president of the Türkiye Organ Transplantation Foundation (TONV), there are 592,893 people who have organ donation cards. Surprisingly, in a large nation like Türkiye, which has 84 million people, there are not many volunteer contributors.
Underlining the data of transplants, the ministry said 809 of these patients are now in line for heart, lung, kidney or liver transplants, 265 pancreas, 1 small intestine, 39 lung, 1,980 kidney, and 1,209 cornea transplants.
Kahveci told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019 and quickly spread over the world, caused serious issues with the identification and treatment of numerous ailments and that donations were also negatively impacted throughout this process. As of Oct. 30, 2022, there were 592,893 people who had organ donation cards, according to donor-recipient data.
"In other words, in the first 10 months of this year, the acceptance rate for organ donation among families of patients who passed away in intensive care units fell to 17%.
"Türkiye has significant expertise in living donor transplants as well as high-capacity organ tissue and cell transplants. This is very important, but in order to ensure an adequate supply of organs, the health system needs to be improved and organ donation awareness needs to be raised among the general public," he said.
According to Kahveci, 22,735 people in Türkiye are waiting for organ transplants but were unable to receive them since there weren't enough donors. "We are still working to catch up with our pre-pandemic performance in terms of organ transplantation numbers."
Last year, 21 people had lung transplants, and as of Oct. 30 this year, the number of people who had a lung transplant was 9.
Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA) recently, Dr. Özgür Yiğit, Şişli Hamidiye Etfal Training and Research Hospital Chief Physician, announced that they have been able to perform kidney transplants from cadavers in only 10 patients since January. Yiğit said, "We are a center that has the capacity to make transplants every day, but we cannot find enough donors."
According to Yiğit, thousands of patients are still waiting for their organs in Türkiye, one of the top countries in the world for transplant operations, since there aren't enough donations made after brain death. He noted that transplant procedures, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in other nations, are carried out completely free of charge in Türkiye and he urged mourning families to be more understanding about organ donation so that the number of cadaveric transplants can increase. Yiğit stated: "Organ transplantation is still the main course of treatment for various disorders. Again, we are all aware that donors who have passed away, brain death, are the primary source for organ transplants."
"Thus, simply declaring that 'I donated my organs' and obtaining an organ donor card are insufficient. Families must also give their loved ones' organs after brain death has occurred. Families should be aware of this risk, not only the individuals who donate their organs," he said.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Ceren Yeşilkaya, the responsible physician for cornea transplantation, noted that the Ministry of Health's records indicate that there are nearly 1,500 patients in need of cornea transplants, and he provided the following information: "These patients typically have severe vision loss, have lost their sight in one or both eyes, and struggle to maintain daily life. There are both adults and children among them. Families are therefore terrified. When someone donates a cornea, the thin, transparent layer in front of their eye is removed without affecting the rest of their body. The integrity of the eye is not compromised in the process of the donation."
Emel Güçlü, 50, who has been receiving dialysis for seven years, said she had two problematic organs but was unable to receive a transplant because of a number of complications.
The top organ transplant teams in the world, however, are located in Türkiye, where 774 transplant units, ranging from kidneys to the small intestine, can heal a large number of transplant patients. In Istanbul, there are 85 of these units. These units and teams frequently cannot undergo organ transplant procedures other than live transplants because there are no donations from cadavers.