Alcoholic liver disease is caused due to very heavy consumption of alcohol. Find out how liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease can be helpful.
Alcoholic liver disease is a leading cause of deaths due to liver failure after viral hepatitis. This condition develops over time and shows no symptoms during the initial days. When the symptoms eventually develop, it is often too late for any treatment. In such cases a liver transplant surgery can be the only solution to save a patient’s life.
However, liver transplantation for people suffering from alcoholic liver disease is embroiled in a lot of controversy, for the possible risk of damage to the graft, should the patient decide to go back to drinking after the transplant. Many practitioners do not recommend this treatment option as it is a self-inflicted disease and may have a low success rate.
Liver Transplantation for Alcoholic Liver Disease
As mentioned above alcoholic liver disease is caused due to heavy drinking for a prolonged period of time. Although, this disease may not show early symptoms, it develops over three stages. First stage of alcoholic liver disease is characterized by a fatty liver, hence also called fatty liver disease. It typically occurs if a person drinks too much alcohol in too little time. Usually, the liver resumes its normal function if the person stops drinking or at least reduces the alcohol intake.
The second stage, alcoholic liver hepatitis develops over a period of time. It seriously impairs liver function and may cause permanent damage. If a person does not cut off or limit his alcohol intake, the disease may progress into its final stage, called liver cirrhosis. In this stage, the liver is excessively scarred and severely impaired. A liver transplant may be the only option at this stage, to save a person’s life.
One must understand that the liver is one of the toughest and most resilient organs in the body. It can regenerate its cells and mostly recover from damages. When you drink alcohol, your liver filters it through the bloodstream. During the process, a few cells die due to poisoning, and are later regenerated. However, if you drink heavily, the rate of regeneration of cells may not be sufficient enough to carry out liver function to its full capacity. As a result, the liver starts losing its resilience and may eventually break down. This fact is sufficient to highlight the extent to which alcoholics impose self-inflicted damage to their livers.
Liver transplantation for such people is not recommended unless they are clean for six months or more. Active alcohol abusers are least likely to benefit from this surgery. If a person continues binge drinking, then he is likely to lose donor graft and thus, render a donor liver useless in no time. While liver transplantation cost may be another issue, it is the waiting period that makes matters worse for patients.
Such people may benefit from a living-in donor’s liver graft. In this surgery, a small portion of the donor’s liver is attached to the recipient’s liver, after cutting out the damaged portion. Over time, the healthy part takes over the liver function, thereby saving the person’s life. The donor’s liver regrows its lost portion within a couple of weeks and poses no threat to the person.
Liver Transplantation Complications
The reason why alcoholic liver disease patients may have a tough time getting a donor liver is that patients with non self-inflicted liver diseases are given priority over these patients. Besides, liver transplantation surgery is a complicated one with about 4 to 12 hours of surgery time. After that a person is required to stay in hospital for 2-3 weeks.
Although he may resume normal activities within a month after surgery, transplantation guidelines impose restrictions on type of activities that can be performed. If a patient starts consuming alcohol after the recovery period, he may pose serious damage to the graft. A person is required to take immuno-suppressants for the rest of his life to evade the risk of organ rejection.
Thus, liver transplantation though a good treatment option for people suffering from alcoholic liver disease, may not be feasible for everyone. Hence, if you are a heavy drinker, restrict your alcohol intake immediately. If you enter a cirrhosis stage, your treatment options are limited, which may seriously impair your survival chances.