Objective: To analyze a single center's 13-year experience with 569 pediatric orthotopic liver transplants for end-stage liver disease.
Summary background data: Despite advances in medical therapy, liver replacement continues to be the only definitive mode of therapy for children with end-stage liver disease. Innovative surgical techniques and improved immunosuppression have broadened the application of liver replacement for affected children. However, liver transplantation in the child remains challenging because of the scarcity of donor organs, complex surgical technical demands, and the necessity to prevent long-term complications.
Methods: The medical records of 440 consecutive patients younger than 18 years of age undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation for end-stage liver disease from March 20, 1984, to November 15, 1997, were reviewed. Results were analyzed using Cox multivariate regression analysis to determine the statistical strength of independent associations between pretransplant covariates and patient and graft survival. Actuarial patient and graft survival rates were determined at 1, 3, 5, and 10 years. The type and incidence of posttransplant complications were determined, as was the quality of long-term allograft function. The median follow-up period was 4.1 years.
Results: Biliary atresia was the most common cause (50.4%) of endstage liver disease in this patient population. The median recipient age was 2.4 years; 239 patients (54%) were younger than 3 years of age and 1 11 patients (25%) were younger than 1 year of age. There were 471 whole organs, 29 were ex vivo reduced size, 33 were living-related donor, and 36 were in situ split-liver allografts. Three hundred forty-three (78%) patients underwent a single allograft, whereas 97 patients required retransplantation; hepatic artery thrombosis was the most common indication for retransplantation (55 patients). The 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year actuarial patient survival rates were 82%, 80%, 78%, and 76%, respectively; allograft survival rates were 68%, 63%, 60%, and 54%. Long-term liver function remains excellent: current median follow-up values for total bilirubin and aspartate aminotransferase were 0.5 mg/dl and 54 IU/L, respectively. Cox multivariate regression analysis demonstrated that pretransplant patient age, the era of transplantation, and the number of allografts performed significantly and independently predicted patient survival rates, whereas allograft type and pretransplant diagnosis did not.
Conclusions: Liver transplantation in the pediatric patient is a durable procedure that provides excellent long-term survival. Although there have been overall improvements in patient outcome with increased experience, the effect is most pronounced for patients younger than 1 year of age. Retransplantation, although effective in a meaningful number of patients, continues to carry a progressive decrement in survival with the number of allografts performed. Use of living-related and in situ split-liver allografts has dramatically reduced waiting times for small children and has improved patient survival.