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DELTA Center for Alcohol Research
The DELTA Center for Alcohol Research is a National Institutes of Health-funded (NIH) program that offers a multidisciplinary approach for treatment of severe alcoholic hepatitis, an especially dangerous form of alcoholic liver disease. This specialized alcohol research center focuses on delivery of early liver transplant for alcoholic hepatitis, meaning patients who have alcoholic hepatitis and need a liver transplant can potentially receive their transplant without waiting for six months, which is required by many other centers across the country.
Our team of hepatologists, transplant surgeons, psychiatrists, social workers and clinical staff are dedicated to treating patients beyond their transplant, which involves concentrating on both physical recovery from transplantation and overall well-being. Through this carefully integrated multidisciplinary program, patients have access to critical mental health support services and substance abuse treatment through the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry after they receive their liver transplant.
In addition to caring for each patient who comes to the DELTA Center, our team performs innovative research to better understand why alcoholic hepatitis develops and why certain individuals may be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than others. Through this research and by studying outcomes of patients who have received treatment at the DELTA Center, we hope to develop evidence-based best practices and standards of care for alcoholic hepatitis that can be adopted broadly by centers worldwide.
Alcoholic Hepatitis: What You Need to Know
Does alcoholic hepatitis only occur in people who drink heavily?
While it is true that heavy drinking over a long time period can cause alcoholic hepatitis, not all people who drink heavily will develop alcoholic hepatitis. Conversely, even “social drinkers” with a history of moderate — not necessarily heavy — alcohol consumption can develop alcoholic hepatitis. Further study is needed to better understand what causes the liver to react differently to alcohol in some than others.
Does alcoholic hepatitis only occur in older people who have been heavy drinkers most of their lives?
Alcoholic hepatitis most often occurs in people between the ages of 30–40. In some cases, individuals may not realize their level of alcohol consumption is harming their liver. Alcohol affects the liver differently for different people due to a number of factors, all of which are not yet known or understood. Johns Hopkins is actively researching these factors through the DELTA Center.
If you are diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, do you have to wait six months to become eligible for a liver transplant?
Most transplant centers require a six-month period of abstinence from drinking alcohol before allowing a patient with alcohol use to undergo a liver transplant. However, Johns Hopkins has begun offering early liver transplant for alcoholic hepatitis and now doesn’t necessarily require this waiting period, rather each patient is considered on a case-by-case basis.
Is someone with alcoholic hepatitis who receives a liver transplant without at least six months of abstaining from alcohol likely to relapse and drink again?
There is not firm scientific evidence to show that a six-month alcohol-free period will predict whether a person will drink again after a liver transplant. In fact, Johns Hopkins has offered early liver transplant for alcoholic hepatitis — transplant without a six-month waiting period — for several years and has found that these patients had the same likelihood of drinking again as those who had waited at least six months to get their transplants.
What are the treatment options for severe alcoholic hepatitis?
By the time severe alcoholic hepatitis is diagnosed, irreversible damage has often been done to the liver. At this point, the only cures are abstinence and maybe liver transplantation. At the time of diagnosis, some patients are quite ill and need a liver transplant to survive before a six-month waiting period has elapsed.
Do patients struggling with alcohol abuse get addiction support after receiving their liver transplant?
The Johns Hopkins DELTA Center focuses on treating patients beyond their liver transplant — our experts concentrate on both physical recovery from transplantation surgery as well as overall well-being. DELTA Center patients are given access to critical mental health support services and substance abuse treatment through the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry after their transplants.
To schedule an appointment with the DELTA Center for Alcohol Research, call 410-614-5700.
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