Pediatric Livers Bypassing Needy Children

A recent study (J Ge, EK Hsu, J Bucuvalas, JC Lai. Hepatology 2019; 69: 1231-41) provides data showing that current liver allocation policy allow pediatric donor organs to bypass desperately ill children in favor of adult liver transplant recipients. The authors utilized national registry data over a 5-year period to follow the allocation of pediatric liver donor organs.

Key points:

  • About 60 children (~12% of waitlist candidates) die awaiting liver transplantation each year
  • From 2010-2014, 3318 pediatric donor livers were transplanted; 45% of these organs went to adults.
  • 390 of the 1569 adult recipients received a pediatric organ that was NEVER offered to a child
  • In this group of 390, 71% of these adults were lower acuity with MELD <35 and non-status 1A.

These data identify a deviation from the policy goal that pediatric organs are offered first to pediatric recipients.

My take: this study adds more data showing that children <12 years of age are disadvantaged with current allocation policies.  This is despite the fact that children have lower posttransplant mortality, indicating that organ transplantation is more likely to be truly life-saving in children.

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Weak Link in Liver Transplantation Survival

A recent article and editorial (DH Leung et al. Liver Transpl 2016; 22: 1584-92 & editorial by JC Bucuvalas, S Feng 1466-68) provides a better picture of long-term survival for pediatric patients facing the prospect of liver transplantation.

Among patients less than 2 years in the UNOS data sharing registry, there were 994 with biliary atresia (BA) and 221 with other chronic liver disease.

The key data:

  • The overall postlisting mortality was 19.6% with most of this due to wait-list mortality (12.4%).  Posttransplant mortality was 8%.
  • The non-BA patients had a higher wait-list mortality compared with BA patients: 23.9% vs 9.8%
  • Risk factors for mortality included lack of exception points (HR 5.8), and initial creatinine >0.5.  In addition, BA patients without prior abdominal surgery (eg Kasai) was higher (risk was 1.6 times greater) than in those with BA with presumed Kasai.

Reviewing the article, it is not clear to me if patients removed the waitlist (eg due to sepsis and other causes) are included in this analysis.  Thus, the true postlisting mortality may be higher than 20% if all needy individuals are considered.

From the editorial -other aspects:

  • Only one-third of pediatric recipients have optimal outcomes which would include normal LFTs, maintained on monotherapy immunosuppression, normal growth, and free of comorbidity.  In addition, even among those with ‘optimal’ outcomes, many would still have histologic injury.
  • The “incidence of nonstandard exception requests has increased 5-fold and is now used on behalf of 44% of wait-listed children.”  Importantly, children with public insurance were less likely to have petitions for exception PELD points.

My take (with help from editorial): To improve outcomes, this means starting with candidate selection and working on each step: traversing wait-list management and optimizing posttransplant care.

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Mural in Rockland, ME

Mural in Rockland, ME

AASLD Guideline: Long-Term Care for Pediatric Liver Transplantation

Guidelines for the long-term care of pediatric liver transplantation have been published (Liver Transplantation 2013; 19: 798-625). At the time of this writing, it has not been uploaded to the AASLD website which archives a large number of guidelines related to liver disorders (AASLD: Practice Guidelines).

Due to the extensive nature of the guidelines, I will not try to summarize them, though I think having this reference is useful.  To see how familiar you are with current recommendations, you may want to take the following quiz:

1. Which of the following are not part of routine liver transplantation care, according to the authors?

  • a. Assessment of school functioning
  • b. Assessment for hearing loss
  • c. Protocol liver biopsy at 1 year
  • d. Resumption of full physical activity by 12 weeks after LT

2. Which of these vaccines should be given (if age appropriate) before LT but not afterwards?

  • a. Measles, Mumps, Rubella
  • b. Varicella
  • c. Rotavirus
  • d. Human papillomavirus

3. True/False: Tattoos and piercings are acceptable if the child has received the hepatitis B vaccine.

4. Options for treating chronic rejection, which is a major cause of late graft loss, include all of the following except:

  • a. Give rituximab
  • b. Switch to mycophenolate
  • c. Switch to rapamycin
  • d. Higher doses of tacrolimus

5. Target level for tacrolimus trough for patients more than 1 year after transplantation?

  • a. 10-12 ng/mL
  • b. <10 ng/mL
  • c. 8-10 ng/mL
  • d. <8 ng/mL
  • e. <6 ng/mL

6. True statements regarding cytomegalovirus infection include all of the following except

  • a. Prophylactic intravenous ganciclovir is indicated for CMV donor-positive/recipient negative but not for CMV donor-negative/recipient-negative
  • b. Second-line treatments include foscarnet, acyclovir, and cidofovir
  • c. Genotypic testing for mutations can be done to determine if CMV is resistant to ganciclovir
  • d. Ganciclovir resistance should be considered in patients with rising CMV loads despite at least 14 days of therapy

7. Minimal recommended time for Pneumocystis jirovecii prophylaxis, according to the authors:

  • a. 0 months
  • b. 3 months
  • c. 6 months
  • d. 12 months
  • e. 3 years


1. C, 2. D, 3. True, 4. A, 5. E, 6. B, 7. C

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