The U.S. witnessed a significant rise in liver transplants required for people suffering from heavy drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ann Arbor-based researchers at the University of Michigan analysed a national waitlist to receive liver transplants. They also looked at numbers of deceased donors who were transplanted to patients. This analysis covered over 80,000 patients in five years.
Between June 2020 and January 2021 the number of deceased donor transplants and waitlist registrations for patients with an alcohol-related disease jumped by approximately 60 percent, compared with trends prior to the pandemic.
According to the U.S. Census, the sales of commercial alcohol increased sharply at the same time.
Researchers speculate that the increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic could have been a factor. However, this study doesn’t prove an exact cause.
A new study by the University of Michigan has found that Americans consumed more alcohol during the pandemic. This could have led to an increase in severe liver disease.
Patients with alcoholic hepatitis (a condition that is caused by heavy drinking) saw an increase of more than 50% in new waiting lists and deceased donor transplants during the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, Americans consumed more alcohol.
Multiple studies have supported this trend, including one RTI International survey that found liquor sales increased in spring 2020. This trend has remained steady throughout the year.
Researchers believe that the increase could be related to Covid-related stress and anxiety. This could have been caused by past drinking increases in other natural disasters.
According to RTI International, binge drinking was also reported to have increased in 2020.
Many people are susceptible to alcoholic liver disease, which is when the liver becomes inflamed.
This condition can lead to liver damage that could potentially lead to death.
A new study, published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, from researchers at the University of Michigan examined a rise in alcoholic hepatitis during the pandemic.
Researchers used a national anonymous registry of organ transplants to identify patients who were on the waiting lists for a liver donation or those who had died suddenly.
They looked at records from January 2016 through January 2021 and focused on liver transplants in people who had alcoholic hepatitis, or other diseases related to heavy drinking.
The researchers used statistical modeling to compare liver transplant numbers during the pandemic with trends from the four previous years.
The analysis included more than 50,000 registrations on the waiting list and more than 30,000 donations from deceased donors.
The analysis revealed that transplants for patients who had been drinking heavily increased dramatically during the pandemic.
Between March 2020 and January 20,21, 2.4% of liver waitlist sign-ups had alcoholic hepatitis. This compares to 1.4% in the period prior to the pandemic.
3.0 percent of patients who received livers from deceased donors had suffered from alcoholic hepatitis in the pandemic. This was up from 1.6% before Covid.
Researchers discovered a correlation between increased liver transplant needs in patients with alcoholic liver disease and increased alcohol sales in the U.S.
Researchers saw decreases of both metrics during spring 2020. However, as the U.S. health system concentrated on Covid patients, transplants numbers shot up throughout the year.
Researchers found that both waiting list registrations as well as transplants from deceased donors increased approximately 60 percent between June 2020 and January 2021, in comparison to pre-Covid trends.
The research team also looked at commercial alcohol sales in the U.S. between 2016 and 2021 using retail trade data from U.S. Census.
Covid saw an increase of alcohol sales. The researchers also found a statistical correlation among increasing sales and the number of patients who needed a transplant.
Researchers wrote that while we can’t prove causality of the increase in alcohol sales, it may be indicative of an association with known increases during COVID-19 in alcohol misuse.
Researchers found that only 6% of severe alcoholic hepatitis patients actually seek a liver donation.
The study’s results likely reflect only a fraction the rise in heavy drinking during the Covid pandemic.
Researchers wrote that their study “highlights the need to public health interventions around excessive drinking.”