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Donor liver shortage is a persistent problem in liver transplantation. A more liberal donor acceptance policy may be a possible solution. However, this might put recipients at risk for initial poor function or even non-function of the graft. Therefore risk factors for initial graft dysfunction should be identified, preferably by using an uniform definition of primary graft dysfunction or non-function. We retrospectively analysed 125 adult liver transplantations in order to identify risk factors for initial poor function and primary non-function. Donor, recipient pretransplant and surgical parameters were evaluated. Since there is no consensus on the criteria of dysfunction we used two definitions known from literature. No risk factors for postoperative dysfunction could be identified for either of the two definition sets. Furthermore, the definition set that included ALAT, prothrombin time and bile production in the first 72 h to identify poor graft function showed no relation with graft or recipient outcome. The other set, using ASAT and prothrombin time, determined from day 2 to day 7, showed that patients with a primary dysfunction had significantly higher morbidity and mortality compared to patients with a well functioning graft. We conclude that initial poor function after liver transplantation remains unpredictable, irrespective of the way it is defined. Moreover, our analysis shows that initial poor function can also develop in recipients that receive 'non-marginal' grafts without prolonged ischemia times. These results may support a more liberal selection of donor livers.