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Fontan-associated liver disease after heart transplant



Background:

Fontan associated liver disease (FALD) potentially impacts Fontan patients undergoing heart transplant. This multi-center study sought to identify pre-transplant risk factors and characterize any post-transplant liver recovery in those patients undergoing heart-alone transplant.


Methods:

Review of Fontan patients at 12 pediatric institutions who underwent heart transplant between 2001-2019. Radiologists reviewed pre and post-transplant liver imaging for fibrosis. Laboratory, pathology and endoscopy studies were reviewed.


Results:

156 patients underwent transplant due to decreased ventricular function (49%), protein losing enteropathy (31%) or plastic bronchitis (10%); median age at transplant was 13.6 years (interquartile range IQR 7.8, 17.2) with a median of 9.3 years (IQR 3.2, 13.4) between the Fontan operation and transplant. Few patients had pre-transplant endoscopy (18%), and liver biopsy (19%). There were 31 deaths (20%). The median time from transplant to death was 0.5 years (95% Confidence Interval CI 0.0, 3.6). The five-year survival was 73% (95% CI 64%, 83%). Deaths were related to cardiac causes in 68% (21/31) and infection in 6 (19%). A pre-transplant elevation in bilirubin was a predictor of death. Higher platelet levels were protective. Immediate post-transplant elevations in creatinine, AST, ALT, and INR were predictive of death. Advanced liver fibrosis identified on ultrasound, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging was not predictive of death. Liver imaging suggested some improvement in liver congestion post-transplant.


Conclusions:

Elevated bilirubin, but not fibrosis on liver imaging, was associated with post-heart transplant mortality in Fontan patients in this multicenter retrospective study. Additionally, heart transplant may alter the progression of FALD.


Keywords:

Fontan; Fontan associated liver disease; cardiac; congenital; transplant.



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