Objective: Parenteral nutrition sustains life in patients with intestinal failure. However, some experience life-threatening complications from parenteral nutrition, and in these individuals intestinal transplantation may be lifesaving.
Methods: This is a retrospective review of 28 consecutive isolated small bowel transplants performed in eight adults and 20 children between December 1993 and June 1998 at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Results: The 1-yr patient and graft survivals were 93% and 71%, respectively. The causes of graft loss were hyperacute rejection (n = 1), acute rejection (n = 5), vascular thrombosis (n = 1), and patient death (n = 1). The median length of time required until full enteral nutrition was 27 days. All 28 patients have experienced acute rejection of their small bowel grafts and rejection led to graft failure in five. Jaundice and/or hepatic fibrosis was present preoperatively in 17 of the 28 recipients and hyperbilirubinemia was completely reversed in all patients with functional grafts within 4 months of transplantation. Three patients developed post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (11%). Three recipients developed cytomegalovirus enteritis and all were successfully treated.
Conclusions: Patient survival after intestinal transplantation is comparable to parenteral nutrition for patients with intestinal failure. Better immunosuppressive regimens are needed to decrease the risk of graft loss from acute rejection. The incidence of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder is higher after intestinal transplantation than after other solid organ transplants and the risk of cytomegalovirus enteritis is low with the use of cytomegalovirus seronegative donors. Liver dysfunction in the absence of established cirrhosis can be reversed.