Background: Alcoholism is the leading cause of end-stage liver failure in the United States, but the application of liver transplantation to the treatment of alcoholic liver disease remains controversial because of medical and ethical concerns. Information about the outcome of patients who undergo transplantation for alcoholic cirrhosis would help to resolve these concerns.
Methods: The results of 41 patients (Group 1) with alcoholic liver disease were compared with those of patients who underwent liver transplantation for other medical problems (group 2) at this center. Thirty of the 32 survivors from group 1 and 30 matched subjects from group 2 were interviewed to assess substance dependence, recidivism, and activity level.
Results: Compared with control subjects, patients with alcoholic liver disease had equivalent patient and graft survival rates and achieved an equal level of postoperative health. These results were achieved even though patients with alcoholic liver disease had significantly worse liver failure and more morbidity before surgery, and one third of the patients in this group were not abstinent before transplantation.
Conclusions: We conclude that patients with alcoholic liver disease merit equal consideration for liver transplantation compared with other causes of liver failure. Treatment of the addictive disorder should be included before and after surgery.