Paediatric liver transplantation: Indications, timing and medical complications



Newer surgical techniques and immunosuppressive therapies have resulted in paediatric liver transplantation being available for most children with end-stage liver disease and has resulted in a greater than 80% 5-year survival rate. The most common indications for paediatric liver transplantation are biliary atresia (43%), metabolic disease (13%) and acute hepatic necrosis (11%). For approximately 75% of children with acute hepatic failure, the cause is unknown. Timing of liver transplantation not only affects survival rate, but may influence neurodevelopmental outcome. Fortunately, numerous types of donors, such as reduced-sized, living related or unrelated and blood-type mismatched, have reduced the mortality of children who are waiting for liver transplantation. However, the mortality and morbidity before and after liver transplantation remain high for children who have fulminant hepatic failure or are less than 5 months of age at the time of transplantation. The principle medical complications after liver transplantation are rejection and infection. Although use of newer immunosuppressive regimens has reduced the rate of rejection, Epstein–Barr virus infection with associated lymphoproliferative disorder remains the principle cause for morbidity and mortality after the initial 3 months post-liver transplant.