June 6, 2019

Opioid epidemic increases number of hearts available for transplant

By: Judy Mathias

Editor's Note

The opioid epidemic has expanded the pool of overdose-death donors (ODDs) for heart transplantation. Even though ODDs have higher rates of hepatitis C, cardiac allograft quality indices are favorable, and recipient outcomes are similar to those with non-ODD hearts, this study finds.

Of 15,904 heart transplant donors analyzed, 1,710 (10.8%) were from ODDs, about a 10-fold increase from 2000 (1.2%). 

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Compared with non-ODD hearts, ODD hearts were more likely to be hepatitis C positive (30.8% vs 5.3%) and identified as conveying increased risk by the Public Health Service (63.3% vs 13.2%), but they were less likely to be discarded because of a diseased organ state (28.2% vs 36.15). 

Overall survival was similar for recipients of hearts from ODDs and non-ODDs.

The study findings indicate that greater use of this donor pool may be appropriate, the researchers say.



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