Donor organs of drug dead
The opioid crisis in the US has led to an increase. Are the organs safe?
Brigham. Due to the devastating opioid epidemic, the number of donor organs available in the US has risen unexpectedly: the number of drug deaths that donated at least one organ has risen from 59 (2000) to 1029 (2016). Nearly 14 percent of all organ donations meanwhile go back to this. But how safe are the bodies of drug-related deaths for the 110,000 people on the waiting list in the US? Researchers at the University of Utah in Brigham are now giving the go-ahead for their lungs and hearts.
Looking at the transplant records of 2360 17-year-old patients, they found that donor hearts and lotions of drug-related deaths worked as well one year after transplantation as those of people who had died of a stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, or gunshot wounds. Mandeep Mehra’s team reports on this in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“We were surprised to see that almost the entire increase in transplant activity in the US in the past five years is due to the drug crisis,” says the doctor.
Heart and lungs were chosen for the work, because these organs were particularly sensitive to hypoxia, adds co-author Josef Stehlik from the University’s Center for Hertransplantation. Possible damage would have to be visible soon after a transplant. That was not the case. “Until now, these organs are often not considered suitable for organ donation,” complains Stehlik and hopes that this will continue to change after the study.
An average of 115 people in the US have died from overdose of opioids, including analgesics, heroin and synthetic fentanyl, over the past few years, according to the Nida drug agency. In 2016, there was a huge increase to around 62,000 overdose deaths, 22 percent more than in the previous year. In the Midwest, the death toll grew by as much as 70 percent. For 2017 experts expect a further increase.
Donor organs of drug-related deaths hardly play a role in Germany. Their use is – after thorough testing for infections such as HIV or hepatitis – Although possible, but only for certain recipients: These must have previously agreed to accept such organs.
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