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Heavy drinkers will be eligible for liver transplants for the first time

NHS Blood and Transplant says patients with alcohol-related liver disease will be eligible for liver transplants under a pilot scheme

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 04 April 2014

People with a severe alcohol-related liver disease will be eligible for liver transplants for the first time in the UK under a pilot scheme, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has announced.

However, only patients aged 18 to 40 who had not previously been treated for a drink problem will be considered for a transplant. These patients also must not have seen a doctor about liver disease or been diagnosed with a drink problem before.

People with severe alcohol-associated hepatitis (SAAH) had not previously been considered for transplants because they were often severely ill when first seen by a clinician and would be unlikely to survive a period of abstinence before transplantation. However, a study* published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2011 has suggested that early transplantation in some patients with SAAH could produce positive outcomes and increase survival rates.

NHS Blood and Transplant said that 20 people with severe alcohol-associated hepatitis will be identified and put on waiting list for a liver transplant, provided they meet the strict criteria.

Approximately 900 liver transplants are carried out every year and around one in five liver transplants are given for alcohol-related reasons.

*doi: 10.1056/NEJMe1110864

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