Alcohol-Related Liver Transplants Skyrocketed During Pandemic

Researchers Point to Record Alcohol Sales During the Pandemic Resulting in Sharp Increase in Alcoholic Hepatitis


Reporting by CNN indicates that the number of people with alcoholic hepatitis who either received a liver transplant or were placed on a waitlist for one increased 50% during the pandemic. The sharp rise in alcohol-related liver transplants directly correlates with the record alcohol sales reported during 2020. 

As noted in the CNN coverage, the information was based on a study out of the University of Michigan (published in JAMA Network Open) where researchers looked at not only the number of people put on the organ transplant list during the pandemic but also the alcohol sales.

What Is Alcoholic Hepatitis?

Alcoholic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by alcohol consumption. Alcoholic hepatitis can cause a number of severe health problems including kidney and liver failure. While excessive drinking is known to cause this form of hepatitis, it can also be caused by moderate alcohol consumption over a period of time.

Advanced alcohol hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis refers to scarring of the liver that can result in complete failure. In cases of liver failure, the only option may be for the patient to receive a liver transplant.

How Many People Are on the Liver Transplant List?

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), there are nearly 12,000 people on the U.S. organ transplant list waiting to receive a liver. Of the 106,711 currently on the organ transplant waiting list, 90,266 are waiting for a kidney transplant and 11,688 are waiting for a liver transplant.

Does Alcohol Use Prevent You from Getting a New Liver?

Alcohol use does not prevent you from receiving a liver transplant. A large number (which surged during the pandemic) of individuals on the liver transplant waiting list are individuals with alcohol-related liver damage.