Alcoholic liver disease has become a major indication for liver transplantation in the United States. Factors that predict alcohol relapse after liver transplantation are poorly defined. The aim of our study was to identify predictors of alcohol relapse in patients undergoing liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease. One hundred and eleven patients undergoing liver transplantation for alcoholic liver disease between 1985 and 1999 were identified from our database. Patients were selected for liver transplantation if their risk of relapse was felt to be low by the transplant team. A chart review was conducted to determine if relapse had occurred, the presence or absence of factors that were thought to predict relapse, and survival. Demographic and psychosocial variables were analyzed using univariate and multivariate logistic regression to identify independent predictors of relapse. The median duration of abstinence before liver transplantation was 15 months (range: 1-120). Hepatitis C virus was present in 64% of patients. A family history of alcoholism in a first-degree relative was identified in 38%, and 78% received treatment for alcoholism before liver transplantation. The mean duration of follow-up was 44.1 ± 3.7 months. There were 29 deaths (26%) overall. Seventeen patients (15%) returned to alcohol use. On multivariate analysis a family history of alcoholism was found to be an independent predictor of alcohol relapse (P= .03). Further prospective studies are needed to examine this association in greater detail to provide targeted treatment for alcoholism both before and after liver transplantation.
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