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Abstract

We report our results with orthotopic liver transplantation in children with fulminant liver failure. Thirty-five children with fulminant liver failure were evaluated for liver transplantation. The main causes of liver failure were viral hepatitis (54.2%), drug-induced liver injury (14.2%) and Wilson's disease (11.4%). Children were considered as candidates for liver transplantation only if hepatic encephalopathy was associated with a decrease in the level of factor V to below 25%. Seven children (20%) did not meet this criterion and recovered spontaneously. Six children (17.1%) had contraindications for liver transplantation and died. In three of these six children, contraindications included irreversible brain damage at the time of admission. Twenty-two children (62.8%) met the criteria for liver transplantation and were placed on the emergency transplant list. Three of them died awaiting grafts. Nineteen children underwent liver transplantation; 13 of them (68.4%) are alive without sequelae, after 6 mo to 4 yr of follow-up, at this writing. Four of the children who died after surgery had severe encephalopathy on admission that did not improve after liver transplantation. In conclusion, emergency liver transplantation appears to be an effective treatment for children with fulminant liver failure. Nevertheless, irreversible brain damage developed in 10 patients, and they died before or after surgery. We postulate that many of these deaths could have been avoided if children had been transferred to a liver transplantation facility and had undergone transplantation earlier. We emphasize that children with acute liver failure should be transferred to a center that performs liver transplantation before the development of hepatic encephalopathy. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:1156–1162.)