Liver Transplantation for Severe Alcoholic Hepatitis, Updated Lessons from the World's Largest Series

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Background: Six-month sobriety before transplantation for alcoholic liver disease is typically required but poorly supported by data. We initiated a pilot program after a report of liver transplantation for severe alcoholic hepatitis (SAH) in which the 6-month rule was waived. We previously reported early outcomes; we now provide longer follow-up in the largest cohort of early liver transplantation for SAH in the literature to date. Study Design: Forty-six carefully selected patients with SAH underwent liver transplantation from October 2012 through July 2017; none had been abstinent for 6 months. We also examined 34 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis who received liver transplants under standard protocols with at least 6 months sobriety. We identified patient characteristics and primary outcomes of patient and graft survival, as well as alcohol recidivism. Secondary outcomes included post-transplantation infection, malignancy, and rejection. Results: Compared with patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, SAH patients were younger and with shorter drinking history and higher Model for End-Stage Liver Disease scores at listing and at transplantation. Of these patients, 46% received preoperative steroids; all were nonresponders by Lille score. At a median follow-up time of 532 days (interquartile range 281 to 998 days), there were no significant differences between groups by log-rank testing of Kaplan-Meier estimates for patient and graft survival or alcohol recidivism. Conclusions: In the largest cohort of patients reported, outcomes after liver transplantation for SAH had excellent 1-year outcomes, similar to those seen in patients who received transplants with 6 months of sobriety. Recidivism was similar in the 2 groups. Early liver transplantation for SAH represents life-saving therapy for patients with otherwise high mortality, calling into question the utility of the 6-month rule in predicting outcomes in patients receiving transplants for alcoholic liver disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-557
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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