Two recent articles delve into the topic of Pediatric to Adult Care Transition.
M Katz et al. J Pediatr (Epub head of publication) 2021. African American Pediatric Liver Transplant Recipients Have an Increased Risk of Death After Transferring to Adult Healthcare (Thanks to a friend who shared this reference & congratulations to my Emory colleagues and senior author Nitika Gupta on this publication)
This retrospective study examined 101 patients between 1990 and 2015. 64 had long-term followup data available.
African Americans had higher rates of death after transfer than patients of other races (44% mor- tality vs 16%, representing 67% of all cases of death; P = .032)
18 of the 64 (28%) died. Of those 18 deaths, 4 (22%) occurred within the first 2 years after transfer, and 10 (55%) within 5 years of transfer.
There was a high rate of medication nonadherence in patients who died. ” Death in our cohort was typically caused by chronic rejection and graft failure, with a high frequency of severe infections or bleeding events ultimately causing a patient to die.”
The average age of transplant in deceased patients was 15. Transplantation in teenage years could be a risk factor as well.
The authors note that “the years directly after transfer of care from pediatrics to adult medicine are high risk for death and poor patient outcomes. Racial disparities seen in pediatric medicine also hold true after transfer to adulthood.”
This retrospective study with 104 subjects defined suboptimal transition as “either a return to pediatric care or requiring care escalation within 1 year of transfer.
37 (36%) were determined to have a suboptimal transition.
Risk factors: mental health diagnosis (OR 4.15), medication non-adherence (OR 5.15), public insurance (OR 6.60), and higher Physician Global Assessment score at time of transition (OR 6.64).
Comments: This is a small study and included only 26 patients receiving public insurance, which the authors considered as a proxy measure of socioeconomic status.
My take: These studies show the difficulties and potential deadly outcomes that face these young adults during transition from pediatrics to adult care. In many cases, medication non-adherence is a key factor and can be affected by access to care, insurance coverage, and mental health. Most young adults with serious medical problems probably would benefit from keeping their parents actively involved in their care.
This was a retrospective study which relied on large national databases.
The 1‐year cumulative incidence of delisting was 9.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.3%‐9.8%) for patients with private insurance, 10.7% (95% CI, 9.9%‐11.6%) for Medicare, and 10.7% (95% CI, 9.8%‐11.6%) for Medicaid
Medicare (HR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.17‐1.24; P < 0.001) and Medicaid (HR, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.16‐1.24; P < 0.001) were independently associated with an increased hazard of death or deterioration compared with private insurance.
The article highlights regional variation in payor coverage and change in watilist death or deterioration from 2002-2018 (Figure 1)
Higher levels of education and employment were protective against waitlist mortality and deterioration
Female sex was a risk factor for delisting which may be in part to body size as women are more likely to have an organ declined as a result of small stature
“In patients hospitalized with decompensated cirrhosis, [daily] albumin infusions to increase the albumin level to a target of 30 g per liter or more was not more beneficial than the current standard care.” The standard of care included giving albumin under specific circumstances: large volume paracentesis, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, or hepatorenal syndrome. Infusions (20% albumin) were infused at a rate of 100 mL/hr. In addition, the albumin group, which received 10 times as much albumin as the standard group, had more severe or life-threatening adverse events, especially pulmonary edema or fluid overload.
F Wong et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 818-828. Terlipressin plus Albumin for the Treatment of Type 1 Hepatorenal Syndrome In this multicenter, randomized controlled study, terlipressin was associated with improved renal function -reversal of HRS occurred in 32% compared to 17% in placebo group; however, it was associated with increased serious adverse events (eg. respiratory failure) and increased death (51% vs 45% in placebo group).
This study had 42 patients who had alcohol detectable in blood and/or urine matched with 84 controls among patients who received liver transplantation for alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD); this study had a median follow-up of 12.9 years..
Long‐term survival was not different between the groups; however, rates of recurrent cirrhosis and cirrhosis‐related deaths were more frequent in the alcohol consumption group
Relapse to any alcohol consumption rate was higher in the case group (59.5%) than in the control group (38.1%, odds ratio 2.44; CI95% = [1.13; 5.27]), but sustained excessive consumption was not significantly different between the groups (33.3% versus 29.8% in case and control groups respectively, χ2 = 0.68).
My take: Yikes.! Fortunately, alcohol consumption is not a significant factor in pediatric liver disease. For adult hepatologists, this study highlights the need for patient support due to the frequency of alcohol relapse.
S Kemme et al. JPGN 2021; 72: 194-201. Outcomes of Severe Seronegative Hepatitis-associated Aplastic Anemia: A Pediatric Case Series This small case series (n=4) with HAAA found that this condition was poorly responsive to steroids, azathioprine and tacrolimus; however, Anti-Thymocyte Globulin (ATG) was associated with sustained biochemical remission of the hepatitis. Two patients underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. All patients had extensive investigations. All had evidence of systemic hyperinflammation (with markedly-elevated ferritin and soluble IL-2 R levels) and CD8+ T cell predominant liver tissue infiltration.
Workup: In the well and stable premature with elevated DB, “aminotransferases, AP, GGT, glucose, T4, TSH, UC, urine CMV PCR, and US with Doppler evaluation should be obtained…Coagulation studies in well babies with other evidence of good synthetic function are not necessary.” Empiric ursodeoxycholic acid may be given with weekly evaluation.
Genetic testing: “Genetic panels are indicated in babies with no obvious risk factors after the first tier of studies…In critically ill babies with multisystem disease, critical whole exome sequencing (WES) is faster and provides broader results.”
Sepsis: Babies with sudden increase in DB and ALT should be evaluated for sepsis (including urosepsis) and CMV.
Nutritional support: Infants should be “supported with MCT and vitamin supplementation.”
Severe liver disease: “Babies with coagulopathy and marked elevation of aminotransferases who have multiorgan failure in the first few days of life need to be evaluated for perinatal complications, severe metabolic disease, and gestational alloimmune liver disease (GALD). In this period, ischemic shock or infectious disease is much more common than primary liver disease, but the presentations can overlap.”
Liver biopsy: “Liver biopsy should be pursued in babies whose cholestasis is not improving and the diagnosis is unclear.”
Etiology: Infection, genetic disease, cardiac dysfunction, large heme loads, and hypothyroidism are common causes of liver dysfunction in the NICU. Common findings included trisomy 21-associated liver dysfunction (n=12), and thyroid disease. 6 patients had type 2 Abenathy shunts -only one required closure. Two patients had biliary atresia. Other liver diseases identified included GALD (n=2), PFIC2, Alagille, Alpha-one-antitrypsin, Cystic Fibrosis, and Niemann-Pick.
Wahid N et al. AASLD 2020, Abstract 153. Summary from GI & Hepatology News: Liver-related deaths decline after Medicaid-expansion under ACA. “Beginning around 2015, liver-related deaths began to decline in expansion states by a mean of –0.6%, while they continued on an upward trajectory in the nonexpansion states…“It’s a no-brainer that the lack of insurance accessibility for the most vulnerable people in the United States meant that they were dying of cirrhosis instead of being transplanted,” said Elliot Benjamin Tapper, MD, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.”
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This study used multicenter data from the Society of Pediatric Liver Transplantation on first-time pediatric (aged <18 years) liver transplant recipients (n = 3801) in the US and Canada (1995-2016).
7.4% developed HAT within the first 90 days of transplantation.
Of those who were retransplanted, 20.7% developed recurrent HAT.
Those less than 1 year had the highest risk OR 1.20).
Lower Risk for HAT:
Recipients with split, reduced, or living donor grafts had decreased odds of HAT (OR, 0.59; P < .001 compared with whole grafts)
Adolescents aged 11-17 years (OR, 0.53; P = .03).
HAT increased risk of graft failure and mortality:
Fifty percent of children who developed HAT developed graft failure within the first 90 days of transplantation (adjusted hazard ratio, 11.87; 95% CI, 9.02-15.62)
Mortality risk (w/in 90 days after transplantation): adjusted hazard ratio, 6.18 (95% CI, 4.01-9.53).
The finding that split grafts had lower rates of HAT may be related to the fact that these grafts more typically come from larger donors with larger vessels. Historically, split grafts had been described as a risk factor for HAT. The authors note that high-performing centers with the lowest incidence of HAT “also tend to have high rates of living and split transplants, suggesting that surgical expertise may play a role in the decreased risk of HAT in select recipients with technical variant grafts.”
Increased rates of HAT among those who were retransplanted, in some, could be related to thrombophilic conditions; thus, consideration of anticoagulation protocol could be needed
My take: Continued efforts are needed to reduce HAT due to its impact on liver transplantation outcomes. One of the biggest risk factors is age. While this would seem to be a nonmodifiable factor, improving recognition and treatment of biliary atresia could help.
Below I’ve included a few slides and some notes from recent Aspen Webinars; my notes may have errors of omission or transcription.
The new allocation policy tries to make liver organ allocation more equitable in terms of disease acuity at time of transplantation and access to allografts
The changes, based on some preliminary data, appear to improve the likelihood of children receiving needed organs. Dr. Bondoc specifically cited the work of Dr. John Bucuvalas in pointing out some of the systemic ways that the previous system disadvantaged children.
Infants are at the greatest risk on the wait list. Yet, successful transplantation in children could be beneficial for many decades
PELD underestimates mortality risk
25% of pediatric donors have historically gone to adults
Are pediatric SOT recipients at higher risk for getting COVID-19 compared with other children?
Children of any age can get COVID-19, but they seem to have milder disease than adults. Pediatric SOT recipients do not seem to get COVID-19 more often than other children.
If infected with COVID-19, are pediatric SOT recipients at higher risk for developing severe disease or complications?
Based on experience with other viruses, and from reports of COVID-19 in adult SOT patients, there are a few things that may increase the risk of severe COVID-19. These include:
1) Having undergone transplantation in the last 3-6 months
2) Receiving high doses of immunosuppression (such as for treatment of rejection)
3) Having other medical problems such as diabetes, obesity, or certain lung conditions (refer to CDC website under Helpful Resources for more details)
It is not known if the above factors also put children with SOT at risk. In fact, of all the reports among pediatric SOT recipients with COVID-19 published so far, the majority have had mild symptoms and recovered.
I was keenly interested in a recent study: BP Lee, NA. Terrault. Liver Transplantation in Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States. Hepatology 2020; 71: 1802-12. Given the potential for causing a political firestorm, I was surprised it was published.
Definitions: “Unauthorized immigrants, also termed illegal aliens in US federal statures are…all foreign-born non-citizens who are not legal residents.” Since March 2012, UNOS has required transplant centers to record citizenship…”primarily to better understand transplant tourism.” The authors excluded international transplant tourists in their cohort.
116 of 43,192 (0.4%) liver transplant (LT) recipients were unauthorized immigrants
The majority were from Mexico (52%). Others came from Guatemala (7%), China (6%), El Salvador (5%) and India (5%).
Unauthorized immigrant recipients had a similar risk of graft failure (sHR 0.74) and death (sHR 0.68), though at time of LT, there was higher disease severity (higher MELD scores and increased need for renal replacement therapy).
Most LTs for unauthorized immigrants took place in California (47%) and New York (18%). Texas (3%) and Florida (4%) had a lower proportion of LTs for unauthorized immigrants based on population distribution.
The authors note that unauthorized immigrants are different that transplant tourists –they pay social security tax/other taxes and contribute to organ donation (~3% of donated organs) whereas transplant tourists do not.
The authors note that unauthorized immigrant LTs were less than half the number of transplant tourist LTs; the later LT recipients are commonly individuals from Persian Gulf countries.
Current federal law mandates that LT be distributed based on “established medical criteria” which does not suggest a “tiered allocation system by citizenship.” Almost half of the unauthorized immigrant LTs were covered by Medicaid.
My take: Unauthorized immigrants are underrepresented as LT recipients compared to their total population distribution in the U.S. This likely is due to a number of barriers. Interestingly, this population is not underrepresented when it comes to organ donation.
A recent retrospective study (SA Taylor et al. J Pediatr 2020; 219; 89-97) examined patients enrolled in the Society of Pediatric Liver Transplantation (SPLIT) registry, including 547 before 2002 and 1477 after 2002.
Before 2002, patient and graft survival were 81% and 90%.
After 2002, patient and graft survival were 90% and 97%. This improvement is perhaps more impressive as there was evidence of increased disease severity at time of transplantation in the later cohort.
The reasons for these improved outcomes include reduced relisting for transplant, less rejection, less culture-proven infection, fewer reoperations, and less vascular complications (eg. hepatic artery thrombosis and portal vein thrombosis).
Donor age (0-5 months) was a risk factor for graft loss; compared to 1-17 years, the hazard ratio was 5.525. However, in the later group, recipient age of ≤11 months was no longer a risk factor for patient death.
Bacterial infection or sepsis remain the leading cause of death after transplantation.
Due to improvement in survival, the authors note that some have advocated for primary liver transplantation instead of Kasai portoenterostomy. “A report of 626 patients with biliary atresia, of whom 50% underwent primary liver transplantation without Kasai portoenterostomy, demonstrated improved survival.” (JAMA Surg 2019; 154: 26-32)
My take: This information about survival is certainly encouraging –though many challenges remain, especially to improve comorbidities.
Projected outcomes with split LT (28% of 2007-2018 cohort) are similar to outcomes with whole LT
My take: While projections can overestimate and underestimate survival rates, the clear trend has been a remarkable improvement in long-term outcomes. This published data can provide current expectations when counseling families, though with ongoing improvements in management/development of tolerance, the hope is for even better outcomes.