Growth after Liver Transplantation

A retrospective chart review of patients from Australia and Japan who underwent liver transplantation between 1985-2004 provides some insight into the growth potential after liver transplantation (J Pediatr 2013; 163: 537-42).  The study included height data from 98 patients and weight data from 104 patients.

Study characteristics:

  • 58% were Australian and 42% were Japanese
  • 76 of 98 patients were transplanted for biliary atresia
  • 47% were younger than 2 years at the time of transplantation
  • Measurements were recorded pre-transplant, 1, 5, 10 and 15 years later


  • Height recovery continued for at least 10 years to reach the 26th percentile (Z-score -0.67) 15 years after transplant.  Australian patients had better height recovery, reaching the 47th percentile (Z-score -0.06).
  • Weight recovery was most pronounced in 1st year after transplantation but also continued for 15 years.
  • The median height, weight, and BMI Z-scores are listed in Table II for all time periods
  • Those most malnourished and growth impaired at transplant exhibited the most catchup but remained significantly shorter and smaller 15 years later.

While the Australian patients had better growth in this study, this may be attributable to the fact that nearly all the Japanese in this study were transplanted before 1996 whereas Australian patients were transplanted over the entire period of the study.  Improvements in post-operative management with improved immunosuppressive treatment regimens (eg. reduced steroids) may have played a role.

Take-home message:  Most pediatric liver transplantation patients can expect to be normal-sized adults.  Those who are very malnourished at the time of transplantation, though, are likely to have some reduction in growth potential.

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1 thought on “Growth after Liver Transplantation

  1. Pingback: AASLD/NASPGHAN 2014 Guidelines for Evaluation of Pediatric Liver Transplantation | gutsandgrowth

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