Pandemic Drinking Has Caused Yet Another Big Problem

According to new research, the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant increase in hospitalizations around the world for life-threatening alcoholic hepatitis.

Alcoholic hepatitis is a liver disease caused by excessive drinking, and these findings add to the growing body of evidence that many people turned to alcohol to cope with pandemic stress. In the first week of the pandemic, alcohol sales in the United States increased by nearly 60%.

A Wake-Up Call

“This is a wake-up call for how much the increase in alcohol use has affected us as a community,” said lead author Dr. H Gonzalez, a transplant hepatologist at Detroit Henry Ford Health System.

His team compared admissions for alcoholic hepatitis to the Henry Ford Hospital between May and September 2020 to the same months in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

In the first five months of 2020, 93 patients were admitted to the hospital with alcoholic hepatitis, an average of nearly 19 cases per month. This was a 50% increase over the 12.3 average for the same months between 2016 and 2019.

In 2020, the average age of people hospitalized was 47, compared to 45 in previous years. According to findings recently published in the journal Liver International, women accounted for 45 percent of hospital admissions in 2020, compared to 41 percent in previous years.

Women Hit Harder

Gonzalez described the findings as concerning.

“Being hospitalized for alcoholic hepatitis changes the severity of the problem,” he said in a news release from the health system. “We must devise coping mechanisms for this never-ending health crisis.”

Every year, more than 120,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with alcoholic hepatitis, and the average 28-day death rate is 26%.

After a two month wait, the death rate drops to nearly 70%

There is no cure for the disease, and there are no FDA-approved treatments. In many cases, a liver transplant is the only way to live.

Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, and a buildup of fluid that causes swelling in the abdomen and lower extremities are early warning signs of alcoholic hepatitis.

Chances Of Getting A Liver Transplant?

When a patient has end-stage liver disease or liver failure, he or she may be a candidate for a liver transplant. The first step in this process is frequently a thorough evaluation and placement on a waiting list. 1-5

Evaluation and management in order to be placed on a waiting list
The patient’s liver disease is thoroughly examined.

The patient’s overall health and ability to withstand major surgery are assessed.

This evaluation typically includes a liver specialist or hepatologist, a transplant surgeon, and other specialists such as a heart specialist, infectious disease specialists, and chest specialists. A social worker and a psychiatrist also meet with the patient and his or her family to provide motivation and support.

A chest X-ray, routine blood and urine tests, and electrocardiography are all part of the general work-up (ECG). These assess general fitness as well as the ability to withstand general anesthesia and major surgery.

Tests for viral hepatitis, HIV infection, liver function tests, blood coagulation tests, blood group, and type are among the other tests available.

Patients with drug or alcohol problems must be assisted in developing a plan prior to transplant to avoid relapse after the procedure.

The Wait For A Liver

Patients are advised to stay as healthy as possible while waiting on the list by eating a healthy balanced diet, getting regular exercise, abstaining from alcohol, not smoking, and so on.

Adults typically wait 149 days for a liver transplant, while children wait 86 days.

Being on the waiting list may put you at risk for anxiety and depression. It has been discovered that one in every four people waiting for a liver transplant suffers from moderate to severe depression. Counseling and assistance should be sought in these situations.

Take Action

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