Hepatitis C Destroyed Gregg Allman's Liver
Hepatitis C, a liver disease in which the organ become inflamed and dysfunctional, destroyed Gregg Allman’s liver, making him a candidate for a liver transplant. The 62-year-old rock and blues legend underwent the surgical procedure at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Individuals can get hepatitis C through contact with an infected person’s blood. This can occur in a variety of ways, such as being born to a mother who has the disease, having sex with an infected individual, being tattooed or pierced with an unsterilized needle that was used on an infected person, sharing drug needles with an infected individual, experiencing an accidental needle stick from a needle that was used on an infected person, or using an infected person’s toothbrush or razor.
Most people do not experience symptoms of hepatitis C until the virus has caused damage to the liver, which can take ten or more years to occur once the infection sets in. Symptoms may include jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin), swollen stomach or ankles, diarrhea, upset stomach, tiredness, nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, dark yellow urine, weight loss, abnormally long bleeding times, and the development of spiderlike blood vessels on the skin.
Allman began treatment for chronic hepatitis C in late 2007, and his doctors recommended a liver transplant because his liver had suffered chronic damage. Most hepatitis C infections become chronic, according to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Without treatment, chronic hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and liver failure.
Hepatitis C is not treated unless it becomes chronic. A combination of drugs, peginterferon and ribavirin, is usually used to help slow or stop the virus from damaging the liver. Peginterferon is administered by injection once a week while ribavirin is taken daily by mouth.
According to the National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), which is operated by United Network for Organ Sharing, approximately 6,500 liver transplants have been performed each year in the United States. More than 15,000 men, women and children are on a waiting list for a donated liver. The details of each candidate’s condition are confidential, although the OPTN can answer general questions about its transplant policy and process.
When chronic hepatitis C results in liver failure, a liver transplant is typically necessary, as occurred in Allman’s case. Drug treatment typically continues after transplantation because hepatitis C usually returns despite surgery.
CNN, June 23, 2010
National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network