Alcoholic Recidivism After Liver Transplantation for Alcoholic Cirrhosis

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Liver transplantation (LT) for alcoholic cirrhosis remains controversial. This controversy surrounding LT in alcoholics focuses on the risk of alcohol recidivism and on potential non-compliance with the immunosuppressive regimen, both of which result in graft failure. Our study examined alcohol recidivism after LT by measuring alcohol in urine and its repercussion on the allograft. Forty-four consecutive alcoholic patients and a comparison group of 17 patients receiving LT were included in this study and followed up for a mean of 39.5 ± 19.6 months. Seven percent (3 of 44) of patients with alcoholic liver disease and 0% of patients in the comparison group admitted to having used alcohol after LT. Alcohol in urine, however, was detected in 18% (8 of 44) of the alcoholic group; therefore the true recidivism rate was higher than the rate admitted. All patients in both groups were compliant with the medications, because the cyclosporine levels were within the therapeutic range in all. On histologic examination the only alcohol-induced lesion found in three of the eight recidivistic patients was steatosis. Therefore, although alcoholic recidivism occurs, it does not seem to affect compliance to treatment profoundly or to compromise graft function. Therefore, LT seems justified for end-stage alcoholic cirrhosis.

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