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Liver Disease | Liver Transplant Scheme Extended

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) said only those under 40 who had not previously been treated for a drink problem would be eligible.

Severe alcohol-associated hepatitis patients would account for 1% of all liver transplants each year.

One in five liver transplants currently performed in the UK is alcohol-related.

Transplanting livers in heavy drinkers has always been a controversial issue.

In the past, debate has focused on the fact that alcohol-related liver disease is self-inflicted, and concerns that patients would not look after their new liver post-transplantation.


This has led the public and the medical profession to be wary of supporting transplantation in patients with alcoholism.

People with severe alcohol-associated hepatitis (SAAH) had not previously been considered for transplants because the severity of their illness meant they were often very ill when first seen by a clinician and were unlikely to survive a period of abstinence before transplantation.

However, a French study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 suggested that early transplantation in some patients with SAAH could produce positive outcomes and increase survival rates.

As part of the pilot scheme run by NHSBT, 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.

This process could take up to two years, NHSBT said.

An NHSBT spokesperson said: “We are looking at a small group of


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