Background. The average age of liver transplant recipients has increased steadily during the last decade. The effects of recipient age on outcome of liver transplantation were evaluated in a large prospective database. Methods. A total of 735 adult recipients of single-organ liver transplants for nonfulminant liver disease enrolled in a large prospective database between 1990 and 1994 were analyzed for associations of patient age with outcomes. Patients were categorized into two groups: younger being <60 and older being ≤60 years of age. Results. Older liver transplant recipients were more likely to be female, white, and have the diagnoses of primary biliary cirrhosis or cryptogenic cirrhosis than younger recipients, who were more likely to have the diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease. Disease severity was similar between the two groups. After transplantation, the durations of stay in the intensive care unit and hospital were longer for older than for younger transplant recipients, but episodes of acute rejection were less frequent. The quality of life at 1 year was similar among older and younger recipients. Patient survival was lower for older than for younger recipients (81% vs. 90% at 1 year; P=0.004), whereas graft survival was not different (80% vs. 85% at 1 year; P=0.163). The excess mortality among older recipients was largely due to nonhepatic causes, including infectious, cardiac, and neurological diseases occurring within 6 months after transplantation. Conclusions. Although patient survival was significantly lower among liver transplant recipients above the age of 60 years, the excess mortality was due to nonhepatic, largely age-related problems. The overall success of liver transplantation and improvement in quality of life for older recipients is excellent.
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