Caroli's disease is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by intrahepatic cystic dilatation of the bile ducts that, when progressive, leads to intrahepatic stones, recurrent cholangitis, portal hypertension, cholangiocarcinoma, and liver failure. Liver transplantation is a promising curative option for advanced Caroli's disease. The aim of this study was to determine the outcomes of liver transplantation in unselected patients with Caroli's disease and recommend an evidence-based therapeutic algorithm for the management of Caroli's disease. Of the 78,124 patients transplanted in the United States between 1987 and 2006, 104 had Caroli's disease; 96 of these underwent liver alone, and 8 underwent combined liver/kidney transplantation. The patient survival and graft survival were analyzed by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis, and risk of death and risk of graft loss were analyzed by Cox proportional hazards regression. The overall 1-, 3-, and 5-year graft (79.9%, 72.4%, and 72.4%) and patient (86.3%, 78.4%, and 77%) survival rates were excellent for patients after liver transplantation. For combined liver/kidney transplantation (n = 8), the 1-year patient survival and graft survival were 100%. Proportional hazards analysis identified Asian ethnicity, elevated bilirubin, requirement of life support or hospitalization prior to transplantation, and a cold ischemia time greater than 12 hours as associated with increased risk of both graft loss and death. A history of prior transplant or prior abdominal surgery was also associated with increased risk of graft loss. In conclusion, liver transplantation is an excellent treatment option for patients with advanced Caroli's disease and should be considered in a timely fashion to prevent worsening complications including refractory cholangitis and cholangiocarcinoma.
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