How Low Can You Go with Split Livers?

Z Wang et al. Liver Transplantation 2023; 29: 58-66. Outcome of split-liver transplantation from pediatric donors weighing 25 kg or less

DJ Stoltz et al. Liver Transplantation 2023; 29: 3-4.(Editorial) Open Access! Exploring the lower weight limit of splitable liver grafts for pediatric recipients

From the editorial:

“In this issue of Liver Transplantation, Wang et al.7 describe the results of an innovative strategy to increase organ availability, particularly for low‐weight pediatric recipients, by utilizing a low‐weight donor population (≤25 kg) that historically has been avoided in pediatric split‐liver transplantation (SLT)…They found no significant differences in perioperative data, postoperative complications, patient survival, or graft survival between SLTs from donors ≤25 kg and the other three groups.”

Implications of study findings:

  • Splitting livers from donors weighing less than 25 kg will increase the pediatric donor pool and could improve waitlist mortality
  • Split smaller livers may mitigate “the clinical consequences of large‐for‐size syndrome and subsequent graft dysfunction”
  • “This approach requires a substantial level of surgical expertise to achieve comparable outcomes with more conventional operative techniques”
  • “1‐year graft survival for pediatric recipients receiving technical variant grafts was significantly worse at low‐volume centers performing an average of <5 pediatric liver transplantations per year” compared with high‐volume centers (89.9% vs. 95.3%; p < 0.001)
  • Limitations: Retrospective study. Also, only 22 of the split livers were from <25 kg donors

My take: Making the best use of this precious resource is a solemn responsibility. This study provides another reason for more transplants to be done in centers with a high level of expertise and more reasons to continue to use split livers. In those with sufficient expertise, even smaller livers can save two lives instead of one.

Related blog posts: