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Liver transplantation

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Liver transplants

Between 10,000 and 15,000 people die every year in the UK from liver disease. During the same period of time around 900 livers become available for liver transplant operations. For this reason the use of transplantation for liver disease due to alcohol is pretty restricted. In order to qualify the patient must have very severe problems of liver failure despite being abstinent from alcohol for a prolonged period of time. The patient must demonstrate that they will not return to drinking alcohol in the future and they must not have damaged the remainder of their body so much that transplantation would not be successful. In addition to damaging the liver alcohol also damages the heart, pancreas and muscles, and increases the risk of certain cancers.

As a rule of thumb most patients undergoing liver transplant will have been completely free of alcohol on regular blood tests for at least a year or two. Over this time in many cases the liver will regenerate and a liver transplant may no longer be needed. Unfortunately some patients will also die during this period. For this reason although alcohol is by far the most important cause of liver disease, more liver transplants are actually done for rarer causes of liver disease.