Background: The shortage of cadaveric donor livers is the rate-limiting step in clinical liver transplantation. Split liver transplantation provides a means to expand the cadaveric donor pool. However, this concept has not reached its full potential because of inferior patient and graft survival and high complication rates when traditional ex vivo split techniques are used. Therefore we sought to evaluate the safety, applicability, and effectiveness of a new technique for split liver transplantation.
Methods: This study consists of 15 in situ split liver procurements, which resulted in 28 liver transplants. In situ splitting of selected livers from hemodynamically stable cadaveric donors was performed at the donor hospital without any additional work-up or equipment being needed. In situ liver splitting is accomplished in a manner identical to the living-donor procurement. This technique for liver splitting results in a left lateral segment graft (segments 2 and 3) and a right trisegmental graft (segments 1 and 4-8). This procedure required the use of the donor hospital operating room for an additional 1.5-2.5 hr and did not interfere with the procurement of 30 kidneys, 12 hearts, 7 lungs, and 9 pancreata from these same donors.
Results: The 6-month and 1-year actuarial patient survival rates were 92% and 92%, respectively, while the 6-month and 1-year actuarial graft survival rates were 86% and 86%, respectively. The 6-month and 1-year actuarial patient survival rate of patients who received a left lateral segment graft was 100% and 100%, respectively, while those who received a right trisegmental graft had 6-month and 1-year rates of 86% and 86%, respectively. The actuarial death-censored graft survival rates at 6 months and 1 year were 80% and 80%, respectively, for the left lateral segment grafts, and 93% and 93%, respectively, for the right trisegmental grafts. Alograft and patient survival was independent of United Network for Organ Sharing status at the time of liver transplantation. No patient developed a biliary stricture, required re-exploration for intra-abdominal hemorrhage, or suffered from portal vein, hepatic vein, or hepatic artery thrombosis
Conclusions: In situ split liver transplantation can be accomplished without complications and provides results that are superior to those obtained previously with ex vivo methods. It abolishes ex vivo benching and prolonged ischemia times and provides two optimal grafts with hemostasis accomplished. This technique decreases pediatric waiting time and allows adult recipients to receive right-sided grafts safely. In situ splitting is the method of choice for expanding the cadaveric liver donor pool.