Michigan Association of Health Plans

The opioid epidemic from a transplant surgeon’s point of view

Originally published by Michigan Radio

Recent reports show that the number of organ transplants is rising. While this may be good news to those on an organ waitlist, the reason for the rise — opioid overdose deaths — is troubling.

Dr. Michael Englesbe is a transplant surgeon and an associate professor of transplant surgery at the University of Michigan. He joined Stateside to share his perspective on the opioid crisis.

On the correlation between overdose and organ donations

“In 2016, we did more organ transplants and there were more organ donors than there had ever been in the United States…. [The increase] is almost completely related to the opioid epidemic.”

“The best data that I’ve seen is from New England…. In 2010, they received about four percent of their organ donors from overdose. In 2015, that number was about 27 percent. It’s almost a seven or eightfold increase over five years. Certainly, it has been remarkable, and I’ve seen that in my day-to-day work.

Tragedy and silver linings

“Tragedy happens within families, and we see our work as transplant professionals to try to make some good out of the tragedy. We’re doing a lot of transplants and that is saving lives.”

“As a transplant surgeon, you go to other hospitals in the Midwest and you essentially operate on organ donors. In the process of doing that you don’t usually spend a lot of time pondering their journey and how they got there because it’s just not really conducive to doing the work.

Listen to the full conversation at: http://michiganradio.org/post/opioid-epidemic-transplant-surgeon-s-point…