Alcohol relapse after liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease: does it matter?

J Hepatol. 2003 May;38(5):629-34. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(03)00088-6.


Background/aims: The aim of this study was to distinguish the types of alcohol consumption after liver transplantation (LT) for alcoholic cirrhosis and to assess the consequences of heavy drinking.

Methods: Patients transplanted for alcoholic cirrhosis were studied. Alcoholic relapse diagnosis was based upon patient's and family members' reports, liver enzyme tests, graft biopsy, and use of urine alcohol test.

Results: One hundred twenty-eight patients were studied, with a mean follow-up of 53.8 months. After LT, 69% of patients were abstinent, 10% were occasional drinkers, and 21% were heavy drinkers. Actuarial survival rates were not different, but three of the seven deaths observed among heavy drinkers were directly related to alcohol relapse. Although there was no difference between the three groups concerning the rejection rates, all rejection episodes observed in the group of heavy drinkers were related to poor compliance with immunosuppressive drugs. One heavy drinker developed alcoholic cirrhosis.

Conclusions: The present study indicates that patients can resume heavy alcohol consumption after LT for alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and their grafts can be injured because of poor compliance with immunosuppressive drugs and alcohol-related liver injury. Although patient survival was not influenced by alcohol relapse, heavy alcohol consumption can be responsible for patients' death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / mortality*
  • Alcohol Drinking / pathology
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / drug therapy
  • Graft Rejection / mortality
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / mortality*
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / pathology
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Liver Transplantation / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality
  • Postoperative Complications / pathology
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smoking / mortality
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Refusal


  • Immunosuppressive Agents