Background. A paediatric liver transplant programme was started at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa (SA), in November 2005. We reported on the first 29 patients in 2012. Since then we have performed a further 30 transplants in 28 patients, having met the major challenge of donor shortage by introducing a living related donor programme and increasing the use of split liver grafts.
Objective. To review the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre paediatric liver transplant programme to date. We describe how the programme has evolved and specifically compare the outcomes of the first cohort with the most recent 28 patients.
Methods. Case notes of all paediatric liver transplants performed between 14 November 2005 and 30 June 2014 were retrospectively reviewed. Data were analysed for age and weight at transplantation, indication and type of graft. Morbidity and mortality were documented, specifically biliary and vascular complications. Comparison was made between Era 1 (November 2005 - October 2012) and Era 2 (November 2012 - June 2014).
Results. A total of 59 transplants were performed in 57 patients. Age at transplantation ranged from 9 months to 213 months (mean 82.39 months) and weight ranged from 5 kg to 62 kg (mean 21 kg). A total of 23 whole livers, 10 reduced-size grafts, 14 split liver grafts and 12 living donor liver transplants (LDLTs) were performed. Eight patients were referred with fulminant hepatic failure (FHF), all in Era 2. Of these, three patients were successfully transplanted. Of the 57 patients, 45 are alive and well with actuarial 1-year patient and graft survival of 85% and 84% and 5-year patient and graft survival of 78% and 74%, respectively. Sixteen (25.42%) biliary complications occurred in 15 of our 59 transplants. Seven patients developed significant vascular complications. Comparing Era 1 with Era 2, mean age at transplant decreased from 100.86 months to 64.73 months, mean weight from 25.2 kg to 16.9 kg, and type of graft utilised changed with a trend away from the use of whole livers and reduced-sized grafts to split livers and segment 2,3 LDLT grafts.
Conclusion. Initially limited by a shortage of donor organs, we aggressively explored optimal utilisation, splitting liver grafts from deceased donors as often as possible and establishing an LDLT programme. This increased access to donor livers allowed us to include patients with FHF and to perform retransplantation in recipients with early graft failure. It remains to offer liver transplantation to the entire paediatric community in SA, in conjunction with the only other established paediatric liver transplant unit, at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
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