Mayo Clinic discovers one more downside to alcoholism

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic researchers have found nearly half of patients who underwent transplantation due to alcoholic-liver disease experienced an acute state of confusion after the operation. This short but severe confusion struck 48 percent -- or 19 of 40 -- alcoholic liver-disease patients compared with 6 percent -- or three out of 47 -- hepatitis C patients, another major group receiving liver transplant. The study is published in the Aug. 28, 2002, edition of Neurology.

"This study found that alcoholics are much more confused than other patients following liver transplant," says E. F. M. Wijdicks, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist and lead author of the study.

Typically, major neurologic complications occur in 10 percent to 20 percent of all liver transplant patients, usually showing up in the first month after surgery. As liver transplant due to alcoholic-liver disease has been on the rise in the United States, the study investigators wanted to determine whether alcohol had an impact on brain complications following transplant. Dr. Wijdicks cites alcoholic-liver disease as the second most common reason for liver transplant.

The study included 87 patients: 40 had alcoholic-liver disease and 47 had hepatitis C without a history of heavy alcohol use. Alcoholism was determined by the criteria set forth in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of "Normal" Disorders. All patients received liver transplants between 1990 and 2000, and their ages ranged from 50 to 70 years.

Of the 40 alcoholic-liver disease patients, 19 went into an acute confusional state within three to 31 days after transplant, while only three of 47 hepatitis C patients had this experience. The mental confusion involved interrupted sleep patterns and disorientation. Recovery and hospitalization also were prolonged in these patients due to acute confusion.

In this study, postoperative confusion includes disorientation (e.g., about oneself, one's wher

Contact: Lisa Copeland
Mayo Clinic

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