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Life After Liver Transplantation

New study explores the “practical aspects of life after liver transplantation,” and looks into the health care resources available for patients after discharge.


 

Liver transplantation (LT) is “one of the most resource-intense procedures despite significant improvements in procedures and protocols,” say researchers from Seoul National University Hospital in South Korea. But little is known about the “practical aspects of life after liver transplantation,” such as unplanned visits to the emergency department (ED) or readmission for complications. So the researchers conducted a study to find out what health care resources are used after discharge.

Of 430 patients, half visited the ED at least once, and 57% were readmitted at least once. The rate of ED visits rose from 15% at 30 days after discharge to 44% at 1 year. Readmission rates more than tripled, from 16% at 30 days to 49% at 1 year.

Contrary to other research, living donor liver transplantation was not a risk factor of readmission. Emergency LT was a risk factor for ED visits and readmission within 30 days of discharge. And although LT using the left liver lobe and pre-existing hepatitis C are known risk factors for long-term graft failure, at the researchers’ hospital hepatitis B is the most common indication for living donor LT. Most of their patients undergo LT using the right liver lobe.

Some of the identified risk factors were unexpected, the researchers say. One was donor age of < 60 years. Warm ischemic time of 15 minutes or longer was another. The researchers note that prolonged warm ischemic time increases hepatic ischemia and reperfusion injury and is related to postoperative complications, which can be a cause of frequent readmission.

Length of stay (LOS) > 2 weeks also was a risk factor for readmission. In their institution, the average LOS for patients with a warm ischemic time of < 15 minutes was 15.6 days, shorter than the overall average LOS. Shorter LOS, the researchers add, may reflect fewer immediate postoperative complications.

Although they identified no specific complication as a risk factor for readmission, the researchers found specific conditions that accounted for a relatively high proportion of readmissions and repeated readmission, including abnormal liver function test (32% of readmissions) and fever (17% of readmissions and 39% of repeated readmissions). The researchers suggest those are conditions to monitor and manage.

Notably, patients who did not require readmission or ED visits in the first 20 months almost never required unplanned health care resources thereafter.

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