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Liver transplants from drug overdose donors increased significantly in the first year of the pandemic, which helped keep liver transplants in the U.S. stable despite disruptions to COVID-19, according to a study to be presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2022.

“When the pandemic started, we didn’t see a decline liver transplantation“That seemed strange because many surgeries were canceled or postponed,” said lead author Peter Limberapoulos, a fourth-year medical student at St. George’s University. “Unfortunately, the key reason seems to be the surge in organ donors who have died from drug overdose».

Using the U.S. Organ Donation Registry, which is managed by the Joint Organ Sharing Network, the research team examined donor characteristics for all solid organ transplantation, including the liver, for two 14-month periods, both before and after the pandemic. They identified these transplants from drug overdose donors to determine the extent of change during the pandemic.

“Among liver transplants, we found that the number of overdose donors grew surprisingly fast in the first 14 months of the pandemic compared to the previous 14 months,” Limberapoulos said. “Organ transplants are successful, but often it’s worth it. In many cases it is young males die prematurely from overdose».

The researchers found that the percentage of liver from donors who died from overdose increased by 26 percent – from 15.1 percent to 18.3 percent – compared to the period before COVID (January 1, 2019 to February 29, 2020) to the period of COVID (May 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). The analysis did not include transplants that occurred in March and April 2020 due to hospital failures in those months related to COVID. For all solid organ transplants, they found that the use of drug overdose donors increased by 31.2 percent, from 14.2 percent to 17.2 percent.

This study builds on other studies showing an increase in organ donation death from overdose during the decades of opioid crisis in the United States and documenting the safety of these transplants. Many overdose victims are young, with few or no others state of healthfor example, hypertension or diabetes, which will affect the viability of organ transplants.

The study did not investigate why more liver was overdosed, but researchers say the socioeconomic stress associated with the pandemic has contributed to an increase in drug overdose deaths and that it has been mostly related to opioids, as opioids make up about 70 the percentage of fatal overdoses in the country.

To build on this study, the team plans to examine additional data on organ donation to see if this trend has persisted for the second year of the pandemic.

Optimizing the use of organs donated from overdoses can help solve the problem of organ shortages in the country

Additional information:
Use of drug overdose donors for liver transplantation during the COVID-19 pandemic, abstract Su1373, Digestive System Week 2022.

Citation: Liver transplantation from drug overdose increased sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic (May 22, 2022), obtained May 22, 2022 from deaths.html

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