The 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic in the United States coincided with a dramatic spike in waiting list registrations at the government-run electronic health records systems, creating a backlog that sharply increased transplant waiting times and pushed the ranks of the liver transplantally needy to alarming levels.
A report by government scientists released Thursday found that health departments in some states that tracked the waiting lists attributed their spike in patients who signed up for the list as taking as many as 10 times the amount of time as when their previous wait was at its peak.
The duration of wait times were affected in part by the spike in donation rates due to the flu pandemic, as well as a spike in liver donations to provide transplant services to patients who survived the illness.
In Maryland, for example, there were increases of between 100 and 10 times the expected waiting times on the electronic health records system, depending on which report one looked at.
And wait times in Iowa increased by 35 to 140 percent for some types of organ transplants.
The report was presented at a meeting in Washington of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, and scientists presented their findings as part of the ongoing work on the transmission of hepatitis C, which left tens of thousands of Americans ill, requiring expensive antiviral drugs and compounding an already serious shortage of new organ transplant candidates.
“These observations are clearly consistent with the likely rise in missing organ transplants and delay in obtaining a liver when they were needed due to an extensive delay in making organ donations available,” said Glenn Gilmer, the report’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement.