A rise in deaths attributed to the opioid epidemic has resulted in more hearts being available for potential organ donation, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Also, according to a related study, hearts from donors who had history of drug are perfectly safe.
For the first study, researchers found that heart donors from 2013 to 2017 were older and heavier than in previous years. Donors from those years were also more likely to have hypertension, diabetes or a history of drug use. Importantly, the team observed, patient survival improved during those years, suggesting that the acceptance of organs from such donors should increase.
“Broader acceptance of drug overdose and hepatitis C positive donors may increase the number and percentage of heart transplants further without jeopardizing short‐term outcomes,” wrote first author Naga Dharmavaram, MD, a fellow at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and colleagues.
“We thought that illicit drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine, which can lead to heart attacks, would prove to be dangerous,” lead author David A. Baran, MD, system director for advanced heart failure and transplantation at Sentara Heart Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, said in a prepared statement. “However, we were wrong. We should not reject a heart from a donor just because they used one or more illicit drugs.”