Liver transplantation in the most severely ill cirrhotic patients: A multicenter study in acute-on-chronic liver failure grade 3

Florent Artru, Alexandre Louvet, Isaac Ruiz, Eric Levesque, Julien Labreuche, Jose Ursic-Bedoya, Guillaume Lassailly, Sebastien Dharancy, Emmanuel Boleslawski, Gilles Lebuffe, Eric Kipnis, Philippe Ichai, Audrey Coilly, Eleonora De Martin, Teresa Maria Antonini, Eric Vibert, Samir Jaber, Astrid Herrerro, Didier Samuel, Alain Duhamel, Georges-Philippe Pageaux, Philippe Mathurin, Faouzi Saliba
Journal of Hepatology 2017, 67 (4): 708-715

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Liver transplantation (LT) for the most severely ill patients with cirrhosis, with multiple organ dysfunction (accurately assessed by the acute-on-chronic liver failure [ACLF] classification) remains controversial. We aimed to report the results of LT in patients with ACLF grade 3 and to compare these patients to non-transplanted patients with cirrhosis and multiple organ dysfunction as well as to patients transplanted with lower ACLF grade.

METHODS: All patients with ACLF-3 transplanted in three liver intensive care units (ICUs) were retrospectively included. Each patient with ACLF-3 was matched to a) non-transplanted patients hospitalized in the ICU with multiple organ dysfunction, or b) control patients transplanted with each of the lower ACLF grades (three groups).

RESULTS: Seventy-three patients were included. These severely ill patients were transplanted following management to stabilize their condition with a median of nine days after admission (progression of mean organ failure from 4.03 to 3.67, p=0.009). One-year survival of transplanted patients with ACLF-3 was higher than that of non-transplanted controls: 83.9 vs. 7.9%, p<0.0001. This high survival rate was not different from that of matched control patients with no ACLF (90%), ACLF-1 (82.3%) or ACLF-2 (86.2%). However, a higher rate of complications was observed (100 vs. 51.2 vs. 76.5 vs. 74.3%, respectively), with a longer hospital stay. The notion of a "transplantation window" is discussed.

CONCLUSIONS: LT strongly influences the survival of patients with cirrhosis and ACLF-3 with a 1-year survival similar to that of patients with a lower grade of ACLF. A rapid decision-making process is needed because of the short "transplantation window" suggesting that patients with ACLF-3 should be rapidly referred to a specific liver ICU. Lay summary: Liver transplantation improves survival of patients with very severe cirrhosis. These patients must be carefully monitored and managed in a specialized unit. The decision to transplant a patient must be quick to avoid a high risk of mortality.

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