Get access

Complications associated with liver transplantation in the obese recipient


  • Conflict of interest: The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.

Corresponding author: Joshua D. Mezrich, MD, Division of Transplantation, University of Wisconsin, 7375 CSC/H4, 600 Highland Avenue, Madison, WI 53792, USA.

Tel.: 1 608 263 8360; fax: 1 608 262 6280; e-mail:


The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome with attendant morbid obesity continues to increase nationwide. A concomitant increase in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and associated end-stage liver disease requiring transplantation is expected to parallel this trend. Between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2008, our center performed 813 solitary adult deceased-donor liver transplants. Patients were divided into groups based on the World Health Organization International Classification of obesity. Patients within each obesity class were compared to normal weight recipients. Preoperative demographics among all groups were similar. NASH was more common in higher BMI groups. Operative time, blood product usage, ICU length of stay, infectious complications, and biliary complications requiring intervention were all higher in obese recipients. Deep venous thrombosis occurred more commonly in patients with Class III obesity. Patients with Class II obesity had lower patient (HR 1.82, CI 1.09–3.01, p = 0.02) and allograft survival (HR 1.62, CI 1.02–2.65, p = 0.04). Obesity class did not reach statistical significance on multivariate analysis. Despite increased technical operative challenges and medical complexities associated with increasing recipient BMI, morbid obesity in and of itself should not be an absolute contraindication to liver transplantation as these patients have reasonable long-term outcomes.