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Liver transplants for alcoholic hepatitis Surging in America

Demand for transplants tied to alcohol-related liver inflammation has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that corresponds to a surge in heavy drinking.  Both registrations for the national organ transplant waiting list related to alcoholic hepatitis and the number of deceased donor Liver transplants for the inflammatory liver condition have been higher than their predicted volumes – by more than 50%.

The study was not designed to determine a cause and effect relationship, it does provide evidence of « alcoholic hepatitis associated with known increases in alcohol misuse during COVID-19. Alcoholic hepatitis most commonly develops in people who consume excessive alcohol regularly. Heavy drinking can lead to permanent scar tissue in the liver and other long-term damage including liver failure if left untreated.

Previous studies have highlighted the concerning trend of excessive alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. A study from last fall found that adults over age 30 had increased their drinking frequencies and heavy drinking episodes compared to 2019.

Women were drinking more during the pandemic. The overall frequency of alcohol consumption had increased by 14%, but it had jumped by 17% among women. Women also had increased their heavy drinking episodes defined as having at least four drinks over two hours – by 41%. Studies indicated that Americans are buying more alcohol and drinking more than they were pre-pandemic. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. The researchers of this latest study analyzed 51,488 new waiting list registrations and 32,320 deceased donor Liver transplants from January 1, 2016, to January 31, 2021.

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