Challenges in transplantation for alcoholic liver disease.

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Challenges in transplantation for alcoholic liver disease.

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul 7;20(25):8033-8039

Authors: Berlakovich GA

Transplantation for the treatment of alcoholic cirrhosis is more controversially discussed than it is for any other indication. The crucial aspect in this setting is abstinence before and after liver transplantation. We established pre-transplant selection criteria for potential transplant candidates. Provided that the underlying disease can be treated, there is no reason to withhold liver transplantation in a patient suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis. Evaluation of the patient by a multidisciplinary team, including an addiction specialist, is considered to be the gold standard. However, several centers demand a specified period of abstinence - usually 6 mo- irrespective of the specialist's assessment. The 6-mo rule is viewed critically because liver transplantation was found to clearly benefit selected patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis; the benefit was similar to that achieved for other acute indications. However, the discussion may well be an academic one because the waiting time for liver transplantation exceeds six months at the majority of centers. The actual challenge in liver transplantation for alcoholic cirrhosis may well be the need for lifelong post-transplant follow-up rather than the patient's pre-transplant evaluation. A small number of recipients experience a relapse of alcoholism; these patients are at risk for organ damage and graft-related death. Post-transplant surveillance protocols should demonstrate alcohol relapse at an early stage, thus permitting the initiation of adequate treatment. Patients with alcoholic cirrhosis are at high risk of developing head and neck, esophageal, or lung cancer. The higher risk of malignancies should be considered in the routine assessment of patients suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis. Tumor surveillance protocols for liver transplant recipients, currently being developed, should become a part of standard care; these will improve survival by permitting diagnosis at an early stage. In conclusion, the key factor determining the outcome of transplantation for alcoholic cirrhosis is intensive lifelong medical and psychological care. Post-transplant surveillance might be much more important than pre-transplant selection.

PMID: 25009374 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

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