Evidence-Based Reviews

The psychiatrist’s role in liver transplantation

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In patients who have a history of alcohol use and alcohol liver disease, relapse to alcohol is a significant problem. Relapse rates vary from 10% to 30%.7 The duration of abstinence before LT appears to be a poor predictor of abstinence after LT.43 Polysubstance use also adversely affects outcomes in patients with alcohol liver disease. Approximately one-third of patients with polysubstance use who receive a LT relapse to substance use.44 Coffman et al45 showed that the presence of antisocial behavior and eating disorders may increase the risk of relapse after LT.

The psychiatrist’s role in the setting of LT spans from the pre-transplant assessment to post-transplant management and follow-up. Clarifying specific psychiatric diagnoses, psychosocial factors that need to be addressed before transplant, and substance use diagnoses and treatment recommendations can help the transplant team clearly identify modifiable factors that can affect transplant outcomes.

Bottom Line

Psychiatrists can help patients who are candidates for liver transplantation (LT) by performing a pre-transplant psychosocial assessment to identity factors that might complicate transplantation or recovery. After LT, patients require careful monitoring for psychiatric comorbidities, drug interactions, and other factors that can affect quality of life.

Related Resources

Drug Brand Names

Bupropion • Wellbutrin, Zyban
Carbamazepine • Carbatrol, Tegretol
Cyclosporine • Gengraf, Neoral
Diazepam • Valium
Hydromorphone • Dilaudid
Lithium • Eskalith, Lithobid
Tacrolimus • Astagraf XL, Envarsus XR


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