Heart donations in India still at dismal rate despite surge in overall organ donations across country

In 2018, only 241 hearts were donated in India. Doctors say almost two lakh people in India would need heart transplants every year, but very few hearts reach at the right time.

Published: 18th December 2019 09:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th December 2019 09:02 AM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

Express News Service

TIRUCHY: While the number of organ donors has gone up, few people donate their hearts.

In 2018, only 241 hearts were donated in India. Doctors say almost two lakh people in India would need heart transplants every year, but very few hearts reach at the right time.

“The number of heart donations is still extremely low. In 2015, the heart utilisation rate was only 19 per cent which increased in 2018 to just 33 per cent. There is a national organ shortage and a national organ wastage,” Dr Senthilkumar Nallusamy, Chief Cardiologist, Rana Hospital, Tiruchy.

Doctors say this is because of limited centres in India. According to doctors, 95 per cent of transplants take place in four  states - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana.

The problem, according to doctors, is by the time patients seek transplants, it may be too late. By the time they join the list for transplants, they are too sick to have a successful procedure.

“The ideal patient for a heart transplant is one who is walking around, should not be able to walk more than 200-250 metres in six minutes and who passes some tests. If patients come when they are too sick, a heart transplant cannot help them. Most patients at the end stage are simply inoperable. At an early stage, patients have an 80-85 per cent survival rate a year after the transplant,” said Dr Sandeep Attawar, Programme Director & Chair of Heart and Lung Transplant Programme, Gleneagles Global Health City.

Nallusamy stated, “There are four requirements for a heart transplant: right donor, right patient, right doctor and  right place. The patient has to be sick enough (does not get better despite maximum treatment and effort by doctor), well enough (to tolerate the transplant) and shrewd enough (must have medicines
meticulously for life after transplant).”

Another problem with heart transplants are the huge costs involved. Even though a transplant is covered under the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme, the costs before and after are huge. Most patients exhaust their funds in the tests to determine whether they are candidates for a transplant. It costs almost
Rs. 1 lakh per year post-op to maintain the heart.

Medicines needed to keep the organ functioning normally carry a huge cost.

Despite this, transplants greatly help human productivity, according to doctors. The benefits outweigh the problems, which is why transplants remain the best available option for end stage heart failure.

“If medicines and follow ups are done correctly post-op, the outcome would be positive. With advancement in medicines like immuno suppresants, outcomes have become better. We have a 50-60 per cent success rate,” said Dr Venkata Devanathan, Cardio Thoracic Surgeon, Apollo Hospital Tiruchy.

Heart donations in Tamil Nadu

2014        -         37
2015        -         52
2016        -        85
2017        -        91
2018        -        89
(Source: Transplant Authority Government Of Tamil Nadu)

Heart donations across India

2014        -         54
2015        -        110
2016        -        237
2017        -        294
2018        -        241


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