Fulminant Hepatic Failure in Children: Superior and Durable Outcomes With Liver Transplantation Over 25 Years at a Single Center

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Death occurs in half of all children with fulminant hepatic failure (FHF). Although liver transplantation (LT) is potentially life-saving, there are only a few published series with limited experience. The aim was to examine predictors of survival after LT for FHF.


Between 1984 and 2008, all LT for FHF performed in recipients less than or equal to 18 years of age were analyzed from a prospectively maintained database using 35 demographic, laboratory, and operative variables. Unique calculated variables included creatinine clearance (cCrCl) and Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease score (PELD). Study end-points were patient and death censored graft survival. Median follow-up was 98 months. Statistical analysis involved the log-rank test and Cox proportional hazards model.


A total of 122 children underwent 159 LTx. Cryptogenic was the primary etiology (70%) and the median age was 53 months. The significant (P < 0.05) univariate predictors of worse graft survival were: recipient age <24 months, cCrCl <60 mL/min/1.73m2, PELD >25 points, and warm ischemia time >60 minutes. The significant (P < 0.05) univariate predictors of worse patient survival were: recipient African-American and Asian race, recipient age <24 months, cCrCl <60 mL/min/1.73m2, and time from onset jaundice to encephalopathy <7 days. On multivariate analysis, survival was significantly impacted by 4 variables: cCrCl <60 mL/min/1.73m2 (GRAFT and PATIENT), PELD >25 points (GRAFT), recipient age <24 months (GRAFT), and time from onset jaundice to encephalopathy <7 days (PATIENT). While overall 5- and 10-year survival was 73% and 72% (GRAFT) and 77% and 73% (PATIENT), these were significantly worse when a combination of multivariate risk-factors were present.


This data from a large, single-center experience demonstrates that LT is the treatment of choice for FHF and results in durable survival. Analysis revealed 4 novel outcome predictors. Young children with rapid onset acute liver failure are a high-risk subpopulation. Unique to this study, cCrCl and PELD accurately predicted the end-points. This analysis identifies patient subpopulations requiring early aggressive intervention with LT.

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