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05 December 2017 : Original article  

Alcohol Relapse After Liver Transplantation: Younger Women Are at Greatest Risk

Samir Zeair1ABCDEFG, Sławomir Cyprys1BCD, Hanna Wiśniewska2CD, Kinga Bugajska2BCD, Miłosz Parczewski3CD, Marta Wawrzynowicz-Syczewska2AF

DOI: 10.12659/AOT.905335

Ann Transplant 2017; 22:725-729


BACKGROUND: Alcoholic cirrhosis is an indication for 40% of liver transplantations (LT) in Europe. In most centers, 6 months of abstinence is required before listing. However, alcohol recidivism is quite high after LT, and approximately 20–25% of recipients with ALD resume harmful drinking, resulting in liver insufficiency, which casts doubt on the 6-months rule as a reliable marker of abstinence maintenance after LT.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: We analyzed data on patients who underwent orthotopic LT in Marie Curie Hospital, Szczecin, Poland, from 2000 to 2015 due to alcoholic or cryptogenic cirrhosis. Every ALD patient met the 6-month abstinence requirement. Alcohol recidivism has been studied based on a history of alcohol abuse taken from the patients or from their relatives, and in case of denial, on laboratory tests for alcohol abuse. Five patterns of recidivism were distinguished: death, constant heavy drinking, heavy drinking with abstinence attempts, occasional laps, and a single episode of alcohol intake. The analysis of survival was performed according to the Kaplan-Meier method. Patient survival rates in ALD recipients vs. non-ALD recipients were compared using the log-rank test.

RESULTS: Alcohol recidivism was finally evaluated in 109 patients: 81 males and 28 females, with a median age of 53.3 years (range 30–66). Harmful drinking was discovered in 16 patients (14.7%), including seven deaths due to alcoholic hepatitis. Sporadic or episodic drinking was found in 29 patients (27%). In heavy drinkers, the abstinence period after transplantation was significantly shorter and patients were younger than the average (median age 43.8 years). Women break abstinence faster than men and are at greater risk of liver insufficiency. Five, 10 and 15-year survival in the ALD group was superior in comparison with non-ALD group, but differences did not reach statistical significance (p=0.066, p=0.063, p=0.075, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: The prognostic value of a 6-month abstinence period before transplantation is rather low as it does not predict sobriety after transplantation. However, only a minority of such patients drink harmfully. Survival in ALD recipients tends to be better in comparison with survival in the other etiologies. Younger women dependent on alcohol shortly before LT are at greatest risk of recidivism.

Keywords: Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic, Liver Diseases, Alcoholic, Liver Transplantation

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Annals of Transplantation eISSN: 2329-0358
Annals of Transplantation eISSN: 2329-0358