Effect of orthotopic liver transplantation on employment and health status



Employment, functional status, health status, and prevalence of anxiety and depression were assessed in patients who had undergone orthotopic liver transplantation at Duke University from 1984 to 1993 to identify social and economic factors that might influence return to work after liver transplantation. Patients were asked to complete mailed questionnaires. A transplant nurse coordinator assigned patients a Karnofsky score, unaware of the questionnaire responses. The response rate was 71% (52 of 72 patients). The median age of the post—liver transplantation patients was 49 years. Median years of education were 13. Sixty-five percent of patients were male. Sixty percent of patients were employed posttransplantation. Employed and unemployed posttransplantation patients showed no significant difference in age, education, gender, marital status, race, family coping skills, or cause of liver disease. Return to work after transplantation did not correlate with socioeconomic status or spouse's employment. Posttransplantation return to work was highly correlated with pretransplant employment (P < .0005). The prevalence of anxiety and depression, assessed by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD), was 9% and was no different in the employed or unemployed patients. Health status, as measured by Karnofsky score, was excellent; all patients received Karnofsky scores ⩾80%. Health perceptions were compared in employed versus unemployed posttransplantation patients with the SF-36, a 36-item short form survey developed by the investigators of the Medical Outcome Study. This revealed significantly different values in the subscale, physical functioning, with a mean score of 70.6 in the employed and a mean score of 48.4 in the unemployed posttransplantation patients (P = .004) and role-physical with a mean score of 61.8 in the employed and a mean score of 27.6 in the unemployed posttransplantation patients (P = .005). Eighty percent of patients not returning to work cited “problems with their health” as their major obstacle to employment. Although objective health status was good to excellent in all patients after transplantation, patients perceived that their health status was poor, with the lowest scores observed in unemployed posttransplantation patients. Copyright © 1996 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.