NHS liver transplants for heavy drinkers

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The NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT) is set to launch a pilot programme by offering organ donation to 20 patients with severe liver disease diagnoses and who have a problem with alcohol.
This scheme is being introduced due to the high demand for liver transplants in the UK. Currently, the demand greatly outnumbers the number of liver donations.

The Associate Medical Director at the NHSBT, James Neuberger, has said that they are aware that the decision regarding the new scheme may test the trust the public has in organ donation.
The scheme will be offered to patients who suffer with SAAH or severe alcohol associated hepatitis. These patients may have been excluded from obtaining organ donations because of a poor prognosis.
The eligibility criteria state that the patient should be between the ages of 18 and 40. The patient should also have received a first-time diagnosis of liver disease and a drink problem.
Mr Neuberger has stated that the alcohol usage is an extremely emotive and complex are and the organisation needs to retain public confidence by using the donated organs properly. He said that this trust has to be earned, but could be lost quite easily. Mr Neuberger stated that the organisation has to work hard at remaining fair.

The decision came about after a study was published in the U.S which resulted in encouraging results among those patients who had undergone the transplant.

According to the current NHSBT guidelines, prospective liver transplant recipients must abstain from alcohol prior to the transplant and for the rest of their lifetime. One fifth of the liver transplants that are performed are on patients with a liver condition related to alcohol.

The service normally places patients on the transplant list if their prognosis indicates that they have a 50% change of survival, with a good life quality after a term of five years.

The Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, Andrew Langford, has said that rather than looking at the cause of a potential transplant patient’s disease, the profession should not be judgmental and should be assessing their healthcare needs first. He said that most of the recipients take care of their donated organs and generally lead a healthier life after the transplant.
The NHS website has provided information which shows that during the last two decades, the number of potential recipients has seen a 90% increase, but the available donation number has not increased at all. This has contributed to the death rate related to liver disease remaining high.

The average waiting time for an adult liver transplant is about 142 days, whilst a child could wait for about 78 days.

Image credit: Cambridge Brewing Co.

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Emma Brown

Emma graduated in 2005 from the University of York with a degree in English Literature. A huge passion for writing and health topics, Emma is a perfect match for Health News UK. Hobbies include; cooking, writing (of course), musicals and her 2 dogs.

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