Abdominal wall transplantation (AWTX) has revolutionized difficult abdominal closure after intestinal transplantation (ITX). More important, the skin of the transplanted abdominal wall (AW) may serve as an immunological tool for differential diagnosis of bowel dysfunction after transplant. Between August 2008 and October 2014, 29 small bowel transplantations were performed in 28 patients (16 male, 12 female; aged 41 ± 13 years). Two groups were identified: the solid organ transplant (SOT) group (n = 15; 12 ITX and 3 modified multivisceral transplantation [MMVTX]) and the SOT-AWTX group (n = 14; 12 ITX and 2 MMVTX), with the latter including one ITX-AWTX retransplantation. Two doses of alemtuzumab were used for induction (30 mg, 6 and 24 h after reperfusion), and tacrolimus (trough levels 8–12 ng/mL) was used for maintenance immunosuppression. Patient survival was similar in both groups (67% vs. 61%); however, the SOT-AWTX group showed faster posttransplant recovery, better intestinal graft survival (79% vs. 60%), a lower intestinal rejection rate (7% vs. 27%) and a lower rate of misdiagnoses in which viral infection was mistaken and treated as rejection (14% vs. 33%). The skin component of the AW may serve as an immune modulator and sentinel marker for immunological activity in the host. This can be a vital tool for timely prevention of intestinal graft rejection and, more important, avoidance of overimmunosuppression in cases of bowel dysfunction not related to graft rejection.
Abdominal wall transplantation in combination with intestinal transplantation improves abdominal closure and serves as a noninvasive tool to induce a lead time to rejection in the intestine and to avoid misdiagnosis by distinguishing rejection from infection.