Among patients with cirrhosis, candidate selection and timing of liver transplantation (LT) remain problematic. Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a severe complication of cirrhosis with excessive short-term mortality rates under conservative therapeutic measures. The role of LT in the management of ACLF is uncertain.
To assess the impact of ACLF on post-LT survival and long-term graft function, morbidity and quality of life (QoL).
We retrospectively analysed all cirrhosis patients undergoing LT at our institution between 01/2009 and 12/2014. Median follow-up was 8.7 years. Long-term LT survivors were interviewed with established QoL questionnaires.
Of 250 LT recipients, 98 fulfilled the EASL diagnostic ACLF criteria before LT (‘ACLF-LT’). ACLF associated with reduced post-LT survival (HR for 6-month survival compared to non-ACLF-LT: 0.18; HR for 10-year-survival: 0.47; both P < .001) depending on ACLF severity before LT, and mainly inferred by infections both in the early and late phases after LT. In ACLF patients, CLIFc-OFs was superior to MELD score in predicting post-LT mortality. Long-term follow-up revealed comparable graft functions and comorbidity burden in ACLF-LT and non-ACLF-LT survivors. ACLF-LT patients reported significantly impaired health and QoL, particularly with regards to anxiety/depression and physical and psychological health (all P < .05). LabMELD score, presence of ACLF at LT and duration of post-LT intensive care associated with poor long-term QoL.
ACLF predicts impaired post-LT survival. While long-term graft function and extrahepatic comorbidities are comparable in ACLF and non-ACLF LT survivors, the strikingly low QoL in many ACLF-LT recipients warrants consideration during follow-up patient care.