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Alcoholism Treatment Can Help Some Liver Transplant Patients

Study finds lower relapse rates, improved chances for surgery's success.

Alcoholism Treatment Can Help Some Liver Transplant Patients

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Liver transplant recipients with a history of alcoholism are much less likely to start drinking again if they undergo substance-abuse treatment before and after their transplant, new research finds.

And a second study shows that continued alcohol abuse after a liver transplant raises the risk of transplant failure. Both studies were published in the October issue of the journal Liver Transplantation.

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is the second most common reason for liver transplants in the United States and Europe, but research suggests that anywhere from 10 percent to 90 percent of ALD patients who get a new liver start drinking again after their transplant.

In the first study, researchers found that 16 percent of liver transplant patients with a history of alcoholism started drinking again if they received substance-abuse treatment before and after the transplant.

The relapse rates were 41 percent for those who received substance-abuse treatment before their transplant and 45 percent for those who received no substance-abuse treatment, according to James Rodrigue, of The Transplant Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues.

"While many transplant centers require candidates with a history of alcohol abuse to attend substance-abuse treatment prior to transplantation, our findings emphasize the importance of continued therapy after the transplant to prevent alcohol relapse," Rodrigue said in a journal news release.

The second study found that patients with alcoholic liver disease who resumed excessive drinking after a liver transplant were more likely to experience liver scarring and transplant failure.

"Our study highlights the need for ongoing assessments of alcohol use as part of post-transplant care. Given the shortage of available donor livers, maintaining sobriety is critical to maximizing organ use and patient outcomes following transplantation," lead investigator Dr. John Rice, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about liver transplantation.

SOURCE: October 2013, Liver Transplantation

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