Liver Transplants and Alcoholics
Liver Transplants are a serious medical procedure with the goal to reverse or treat a failing Liver.
The procedure is called an allograft from a source that is not genetically identical. Isograft is when a genetically identically donor – ie an identical twin.
In this case, the liver, is removed from the sick patient and replaced from a donor.
This is typically done in patients suffering from end-stage liver disease and Acute Liver Failure. As in other major surgeries, there is a substantial amount of risk during the procedure.
If a patient has end-stage liver disease or Liver Failure they don’t automatically qualify for liver transplant.
They must also be avoid of other competing medical issues that typical result in poor outcomes such as: uncontrolled metastatic cancer – when it is outside of the liver, active drug abuse, active alcohol abuse, active infections. HIV used to be on the list but this has recently changed.
Age, serious heart conditions, and other medical issues need to be reviewed in each patient before transplant would be approved.
- A small study in France indicates that they had several patients that were given a new liver and became sober years later.
- Only 26 people were in the study where 77% were alive after six months and only three began drinking within the next three years.
- All 26 had very stable and supportive group of family and friends.
Many point to George Best, a British soccer player who received a liver transplant in 2002, only to start drinking again and he eventually died three years later.
Excess alcohol abuse can cause liver damage including Cirrhosis and Hepatitis. Just under 20% of current transplants go to current or former heavy abuse drinkers. Patients must give up heavy drinking for six months before a transplant center will approve them to be placed on the list.
The French study suggests dropping the ban only for patients with hepatitis related to excess alcohol abuse. Arguments are that obesity and Drug Abuse Causing Liver Failure patients are a large majority of patients receiving liver transplants and these are lifestyle choices as well.
Last year alone, over 6,000 liver transplants were performed in the United States. It has been reported that around 1,400 individuals died waiting for a transplant. This data is given by United Network for Organ Sharing.
Remember that alcohol alone is no the only way to have liver damage. Some patients with no history of alcohol, drug use or obesity are currently waiting for a transplant. Approving the drop in six months free of alcohol will affect them as well.
Controversy has been seen on this topic before and it appears that this new study will again draw in the sand lines of opposition. Some state that the lines are becoming increasingly clear, while others states that facts just blur them into confusion.
Please comment as too where you stand. One way or another, lives are at stake. Please be mindful of that in the comment section.