The classical form of alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency (A1ATD) is known to cause liver disease in children and adults, but there is relatively little information about the risk of severe, progressive liver disease and the need for liver transplantation. To better understand how newly evolving pharmacological, genetic, and cellular therapies may be targeted according to risk for progressive liver disease, we sought to determine the age distribution of A1ATD as a cause of severe liver disease, as defined by the need for liver transplantation. Using 3 US liver transplantation databases for the period 1991-2012, we found 77.2% of 1677 liver transplants with a reported diagnosis of A1ATD were adults. The peak age range was 50-64 years. Using 2 of the databases which included specific A1AT phenotypes, we found that many of these adults who undergo liver transplantation with A1ATD as the diagnosis are heterozygotes and have other potential causes of liver disease, most notably obesity and ethanol abuse. However, even when these cases are excluded and only ZZ and SZ phenotypes are considered, severe liver disease requiring transplantation is more than 2.5 times as likely in adults. The analysis also showed a markedly increased risk for males. In the pediatric group, almost all of the transplants are done in children less than 5 years of age. In conclusion, A1ATD causes progressive liver disease most commonly in adults with males in the highest risk category. In the pediatric group, children less than 5 years of age are highest in risk. These results suggest that A1ATD most commonly causes liver disease by mechanisms similar to age-dependent degenerative diseases and more rarely in children by powerful modifiers. Liver Transplantation 22 886-894 2016 AASLD.
© 2016 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.