Background: The authors investigated the cognitive status during the late postoperative phase in children who had undergone liver transplantation (LTx).
Methods: The authors examined 44 children who had undergone liver transplantation at their center. The children were 8.9+/-2.3 (mean+/-SD) years of age and had received the transplant 6.1+/-2.6 years previously. In 24 of the 44 children, a living-related transplantation had been carried out. Cognitive abilities were assessed with the three subscales of the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC): the sequential processing scale (SES), the simultaneous processing scale (SIS), and the achievement scale (AS).
Results: The children scored below the population mean but within the normal range on all subscales of the K-ABC. In the SIS and the AS, age at transplantation influenced the cognitive outcome, as the children who were younger at transplantation scored significantly better than the older children and their results were within the normal range. However, for the SES, no such differences were found. A multiple regression analysis revealed that duration of illness and height at transplantation predicts the performance in the SIS and the AS. To a lesser degree, type of transplantation (cadaveric vs. living-related) predicts performance in the AS. Performance in the SES was not predicted by any of these variables. Time since LTx and type of immunosuppressive regimen were not associated with the cognitive status after transplantation.
Conclusions: Children who are younger, with a shorter duration of illness, and who are more physically developed before LTx have a better prognosis regarding their mental development. However, this result does not hold for sequential processing functions, which showed no relationship with any of these variables. This could indicate differential effects of liver disease and consecutive metabolic derangements on brain development during the preoperative phase.