Quality of life after liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease



There are few data on predictive factors for alcohol relapse or long-term functional outcome after liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease (ALD). In all 56 surviving UK patients (47 men, 9 women; mean age: 51 years; range: 33 to 69 years) who underwent transplantation for ALD at King's College Hospital over a 10-year period, alcohol relapse and outcome were assessed by outpatient and case-note review and by postal questionnaire containing (1) the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP), (2) the Short-Form-36 (SF-36) Health Survey, and (3) a drug and alcohol questionnaire. At a median of 2.5 years (range: 0.5 to 10 years), 13 of the 47 respondents (28%) and 2 of the 9 nonrespondents (22%) had evidence of potentially harmful drinking (>3 units daily) at some time posttransplantation. An additional 13 patients admitted to drinking some alcohol at least once, corresponding to an overall relapse rate of 50%. The patients with harmful drinking (1) had started drinking regularly at a younger age (18 v 25 years; P = .01), (2) began drinking heavily at a younger age (30 v 40 years; P = .01), (3) had shorter pretransplantation abstinence periods (10 v 23 months; P = .02), and (4) had a longer time since transplantation (median, 5.7 v 1.5 years; P = .0004) than those with no or mild alcohol relapse. They were also more likely to report sleep disturbance (NHP sleep problem score, 45 v 16; P = .01) and use benzodiazepines regularly (7 of 13 v 3 of 34 patients; P = .002). Despite these differences, health dimension scores in the SF-36 and NHP posttransplantation were similar between the groups and to those of UK community controls. In the long term, at least 50% of the patients will drink again at some time posttransplantation, although at lower levels of alcohol intake than previously. Those patients with multiple predictive factors for alcohol relapse may be at greatest risk for harmful drinking and be the group that would benefit most from professional counseling. Overall, the quality of life after liver transplantation for ALD is high and broadly similar to the levels expected in the normal population.