WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis (AAH) have similar early post–liver transplant outcomes to those listed with fulminant hepatic failure, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Patients with severe AAH have high mortality, but many are unable to survive the 6 months of sobriety required to be accepted as liver transplant candidates, said George Cholankeril, MD, of the gastroenterology and hepatology department at Stanford (Calif.) University.

He and his associates studied wait-list mortality and post–liver transplant survival among 1,912 patients listed for either AAH or fulminant hepatic failure on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) registry between 2011 and 2016.

A total of 193 patients were listed with AAH, 314 were listed with drug-induced liver injury including acetaminophen (DILI-APAP), and 1,405 were listed as non-DILI patients.

One-year post–liver transplant survival among AAH patients was 93.3%, compared with 87.75% for DILI-APAP patients and 88.4% among non-DILI patients (P less than .001). Survival remained the same among AAH patients 3 years following transplantation, but rates dropped for both the DILI-APAP group (80.8%) and the non-DILI group (81.4%), Dr. Cholankeril reported.

Patients were a median age of 45, 33, and 46 years among the AAH, DILI-APAP, and non-DILI, groups respectively. Patients were majority white among all three groups, with a significantly larger female population among the DILI-APAP group (80.6%) than the AAH (34.7%) or non-DILI (59.4%) groups. Patients in the AAH group had a median Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score of 32, compared with 34 for DILI-APAP and 21 for non-DILI.

AAH patients could potentially see significant improvement with a liver transplant, according to investigators; however, the current standards for candidacy have created treatment barriers.

“Patients with AAH have comparable early post-transplant outcomes to those with hepatic liver failure,” said Dr. Cholankeril. “However, there is no consensus or national guidelines for liver transplantation within this patient population.”

Wait-list trends have already started to shift toward more AAH patient acceptance. The number of AAH patients added to the transplant wait lists increased from 14 in 2011 to 58 in 2016. Investigators also found that the number of liver transplant centers accepting AAH patients to their transplant lists increased from 3 to 26.

Investigators were limited by the variations in protocols for each transplant center, as well as by the inconsistency of pre–liver transplant psychosocial metrics. The diagnostic criteria of AAH through UNOS was also a limitation for investigators, according to Dr. Cholankeril.

Although liver transplantation may be able to help some patients, it is only a small fix for a much larger problem. “This is only a solution for a minority of patients with the rising epidemic of alcoholic intoxication in the U.S.,” he said. “As the increasing mortality trends show alcohol-related mortality, and alcoholic liver disease is a contributor to it, we must recognize alcoholic liver disease remains an orphan disease and there is still an unmet need.”

Dr. Cholankeril reported no relevant financial disclosures.

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