Organ Donations From Overdose Victims A "Silver Lining" Of Opioid Crisis

Organ Donations From Overdose Victims A

From these donors, there were 19,897 transplants. For heart recipients who received new organs from donors who died of a drug overdose, trauma, or medical conditions, the unadjusted 5-year survival rates posttransplant were 79.2%, 77.5%, and 74.4%, respectively. While the survival rates among patients were generally the same, those who received organs from an overdose victim sometimes fared better because the donor was more likely to be younger, and less likely to suffer from ailments like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Published online yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study included data from 337,934 kidney, liver, heart, and lung transplant recipients treated at 297 United States centers between January 2000 and September 2017.

Some good may be coming out of the tragic and troubling increase of opioid deaths in the United States.

But while the overdose epidemic rages unchecked, transplantable organs donated by victims' grieving family members "should be optimized", they added.

It doesn't take an in-depth reading of the letters that recipients of organ transplants write to the families of deceased donors to realize the deep connection between an ailing person's salvation and another family's grief. Moreover, the prevalence of hepatitis C-infected donors has risen steadily among overdose-death donors since 2000.

"There's a tremendous need to increase the donor pool, and many people have been working on this very hard", Gorodeski said.

The researchers identified 7,313 overdose-death donors in the data who had at least one organ recovered during that time.

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But with almost 115,000 people on the national waiting list for a transplant, the Hopkins team concluded that use of organs from overdoses "should be optimized" because many transplant candidates could die waiting for another choice. And with new medications and more aggressive treatment, studies show the prognosis is improving for transplant recipients who do get infected organs.

The study involved data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, which included information on donors, wait-listed candidates and transplant recipients between January 2000 and September 2017. ODDs were more likely to be white and aged 21 to 40 years (85.1 and 66.3%), to be hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected (18.3%), and to be increased-infectious risk donors (IRDs; 56.4%).

The researchers noted that in 2016 there were 3,533 transplants involving overdose-related donors, compared to 149 conducted in 2000.

"Organ donation after overdose death has increased dramatically in parallel with the opioid epidemic in the United States", lead author Christine M. Durand, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD), and colleagues write. In fact, standardized graft survival was slightly higher for overdose-death donors using propensity score-weighted standardized risk differences compared with organs that came from donors who died from trauma (1.9% higher) or medical causes (2.6% higher).

The researchers said recovered kidneys, for example, were discarded at a significantly higher rate from overdose donors than others, in part because of a higher incidence of hepatitis C.

Patients who lose all brain function as a result of stroke, heart attack or brain hemorrhage also become organ donors.

"It's reassuring that these organs do work well and provide a lot of benefit", said Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the US transplant system.


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