Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Liver transplantation in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis: selection criteria and rates of survival and relapse.

British Medical Journal 1990; 301 doi: (Published 07 July 1990) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1990;301:15
  1. G L Bird,
  2. J G O'Grady,
  3. F A Harvey,
  4. R Y Calne,
  5. R Williams
  1. Liver Unit, King's College Hospital, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To evaluate the outcome of liver transplantation in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis with respect to selection criteria, survival, and evidence suggesting a return to harmful drinking. DESIGN--Nine year retrospective study. SETTING--Cambridge and King's College Hospital liver transplant programme. SUBJECTS--24 Patients (three women, 21 men) with alcoholic cirrhosis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Survival, rehabilitation, and clinical and laboratory evidence of a return to harmful drinking after transplantation. RESULTS--15 Patients were selected for transplantation because of repeated admission to hospital for the complications of advanced portal hypertension despite abstinence, and six because they had a hepatocellular carcinoma superimposed on alcoholic cirrhosis. Three patients who were not abstinent received transplants. The one year survival rate was 66%, and of the 18 patients surviving at least three months, 17 had been rehabilitated. In three patients laboratory variables and histological examination of the liver suggested a return to drinking, though they did not admit to taking alcohol. These patients represented the only cases in the series that were not abstinent before transplantation. CONCLUSIONS--The survival and rehabilitation of patients who received transplants for alcoholic cirrhosis compared favourably with those of patients who received transplants for cirrhosis of other aetiology. The criteria for selection for liver transplantation in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis should include recurrent complications related to severe portal hypertension despite maximum medical treatment in addition to a minimum period of six months of abstinence before transplantation.