Liver transplantation: a systematic review of long-term quality of life

Liver Int. 2014 Oct;34(9):1298-313. doi: 10.1111/liv.12553. Epub 2014 Apr 23.


Background & aims: Liver transplantation is the only curative intervention for terminal liver disease. Accurate long-term quality of life (QOL) data are required in the context of improved surgical outcomes and increasing post-transplant survival. This study reviews the long-term QOL after primary liver transplantation in adult patients surviving 5 or more years after surgery.

Methods: A literature search was conducted on PubMed for all studies matching the eligibility criteria between January 2000 and October 2013. Bibliographies of included studies were also reviewed. Two authors independently performed screening of titles and abstracts. Consensus for studies included for review was achieved by discussion between authors based on predetermined eligibility criteria. Quality appraisal and data tabulation were performed using predetermined forms. Results were synthesized by narrative review.

Results: Twenty-three studies (5402 patients) were included. QOL following liver transplantation remains superior to preoperative status up to 20 years post-operatively. More post-operative complications predicted worse QOL scores especially in physical domains. Benefits in functional domains persist long-term with independence in self-care and mobility. Employment rates recover in the short-term but decline after 5 years, and differ significantly between various aetiologies of liver disease. Overall QOL improves to a similar level as the general population, but physical function remains worse. Participation in post-operative physical activity is associated with superior QOL outcomes in liver transplant recipients compared to the general population. QOL improvements are similar compared to lung, kidney and heart transplantation. Heterogeneity between studies precluded quantitative analysis.

Conclusions: Liver transplantation confers specific long-term QOL and functional benefits when compared to preoperative status. This information can assist in providing a more complete estimate of the overall health of liver transplant recipients and the effectiveness of surgery. Guidelines for future studies are provided.

Keywords: adult; liver transplantation; long-term; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • End Stage Liver Disease / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / methods
  • Liver Transplantation / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome