Background: Small-bowel transplantation is an alternative to home parenteral nutrition (HPN) in patients with gut failure. Our aim was to report the indication, diagnosis, morbidity, mortality, and intestinal adaptation in the total cohort of Danish patients receiving HPN at any time during the 5 years between 1 January 1991 and 31 December 1995. The data were analysed against the option of transplantation.
Results: HPN was given to 129 patients; 59 (46%) had inflammatory bowel disease (15% died), 26 (20%) had cured cancers (42% died), and 44 (34%) had other diseases (dysmotility, surgical complications, infarcts, and so forth; 27% died). Of these, 60% were new in the HPN program, but only 19% received HPN all 5 years; 31 % had terminated HPN, 19% permanently, and 25% died. Only four deaths were HPN-related. In December 1995, 73 patients were receiving HPN in Denmark, for a prevalence of 13.9 per million, which is the highest in Europe but 10-fold lower than in the United States.
Conclusions: Gut failure was the only indication for HPN in Denmark. Weight loss without gut failure, such as disseminated cancer and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, was not an indication for HPN. Survival after small-bowel transplantation should be assessed against a sizeable mortality among candidates receiving HPN, and this depends on diagnosis and age. In an HPN population comparable with the Danish, a quarter is likely to die within a period of 5 years, a quarter will terminate HPN, and the others survive with HPN. Small-bowel transplantation can be a lifesaving procedure in the small fraction of foreseeable HPN-related deaths, mainly caused by liver failure. Transplantation will not improve survival in most adult HPN patients, and only an improved quality of life after transplantation justifies this procedure in most HPN patients.