Adult liver transplant eligibility criteria

October 22, 2008

The pain is debilitating. The only option: smoking medical marijuana. That's the reality for many hepatitis C patients whose road to health includes a liver transplant. Although Canadian transplant centres are more willing than those in the United States, not everyone says yes to liver patients who smoke marijuana, and a University of Alberta researcher says that decision-making process is unacceptable.

Karen Kroeker, along with three other students at various universities, sent out surveys to a number of transplant clinics across the United States and Canada. Results found that the difference between the two countries were obvious in some patient groups: around 60 per cent of Canadian centres would either do the surgery or consider it for a liver transplant patient who smoked marijuana, while 70 per cent of U.S. transplant programs said absolutely not. Kroeker also found that patients in both countries, who have no social support—meaning they have no family, friends or a social worker—aren't likely to receive the organ they need.

The problem Kroeker has with these results: the lack of literature to support the surgeons' decision. As a result of her findings, which will be published in the November issue of Liver International, Kroeker says physicians need to determine eligibility criteria for liver-transplant patients that pertains directly to the likelihood of a patient rejecting the organ and is based only on empirical medical evidence.

When a patient is being reviewed for eligibility, whether they smoke marijuana shouldn't be a factor, she says. "If we have evidence to say the patients don't do well, then I think that's a reason to exclude people," Kroeker said.

She cites alcohol use as an example. When transplants first began to be performed, those who drank alcohol weren't eligible for a new liver. Kroeker's study found, however, that surgeons conducted studies on the topic of abstinence and liver health and, as a result of that research, transplant rules changed. If the patient has been sober for six months, 94 per cent of the clinics in North America will now consider transplantation.

The same goes for HIV-positive patients. "When they first started transplanting, HIV was an absolute contraindication. No one even considered transplantation because the disease was a death sentence at that time." Kroeker adds that's no longer the case and that there is research being conducted on post-transplant HIV-patients that will help determine the viability of transplants in HIV-positive patients.

In reference to her findings, Kroeker said, "I think there should be a large-scale study," because too-little research is available on post-transplant patients whose eligibility may currently be in question.

"Unless you actually perform transplants for those people, how would you know how they do?"

Source: University of Alberta

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.