Background: For most organ transplantation (Tx), ABO blood group incompatibility (ABOI) is an absolute contraindication because of the high incidence of hyperacute rejection (HAR). While HAR occurs in ABOI liver Tx (LTx), it is known that some liver grafts can be accepted.
Methods: ABO-incompatible (ABOI) liver allografts were used in seven of 355 orthotopic LTx operations performed at our institution over a 10-year period. All seven recipients were in fulminant hepatic failure (FHF) prior to Tx.
Results: Following Tx, all grafts functioned immediately. One patient died without recovering consciousness. Six patients recovered consciousness following Tx but three patients subsequently required re-transplantation (with ABO-compatible grafts (ABOC)) because of severe acute rejection (2) and chronic rejection (1). Hyper-acute rejection did not occur. All six patients are now well, with a mean survival of 61.5 months. When compared to 36 other FHF patients who received ABOC grafts, graft survivals were 3/7 (43%) for ABOI versus 23/36 (64%) for ABOC (P= not significant (NS)). Patient survivals were 6/7 (85.7%) for ABOI patients and 23/36 (64%) for ABOC (P= NS). The re-transplantation rate was significantly higher in the ABOI group (P= 0.001).
Conclusions: The results confirm that ABOI liver grafts should be used in urgent circumstances when compatible grafts are not available. Some grafts function indefinitely, while those that fail may function for sufficient time to allow successful re-transplantation with ABOC grafts.