Objective: To determine the evolution of cognitive and academic deficits and risk factors in children after liver transplantation.
Study design: Patients ≥2 years after liver transplantation were recruited through Studies of Pediatric Liver Transplantation. Participants age 5-6 years at Time 1 completed the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, 3rd edition, Wide Range Achievement Test, 4th edition, and Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF). Participants were retested at age 7-9 years, Time 2 (T2), by use of the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children, 4th edition, Wide Range Achievement Test, 4th edition, and BRIEF. Medical and demographic variables significant at P ≤ .10 in univariate analysis were fitted to repeated measures modeling predicting Full Scale IQ (FSIQ).
Results: Of 144 patients tested at time 1, 93 (65%) completed T2; returning patients did not differ on medical or demographic variables. At T2, more participants than expected had below-average FSIQ, Verbal Comprehension, Working Memory, and Math Computation, as well as increased executive deficits on teacher BRIEF. Processing Speed approached significance. At T2, 29% (14% expected) had FSIQ = 71-85, and 7% (2% expected) had FSIQ ≤70 (P = .0001). A total of 42% received special education. Paired comparisons revealed that, over time, cognitive and math deficits persisted; only reading improved. Modeling identified household status (P < .002), parent education (P < .01), weight z-score at liver transplantation (P < .03), and transfusion volume during liver transplantation (P < .0001) as predictors of FSIQ.
Conclusions: More young liver transplantation recipients than expected are at increased risk for lasting cognitive and academic deficits. Pretransplant markers of nutritional status and operative complications predicted intellectual outcome.
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