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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 24, Issue 4, Pages 245-250
Original Article

Predictors of Relapse to Significant Alcohol Drinking after Liver Transplantation

Zamil Karim,1 Pongphob Intaraprasong,1 Charles H Scudamore,2 Siegfried R Erb,1 John G Soos,3 Elsie Cheung,3 Polly Cooper,4 Andrzej K Buzckowski,2 Stephen W Chung,2 Urs P Steinbrecher,1 and Eric M Yoshida1

1Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Canada
2Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Canada
3Department of Psychology, Vancouver General Hospital and the BC Transplant Society, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
4Department of Social Work, Vancouver General Hospital and the BC Transplant Society, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Received 22 May 2009; Accepted 5 August 2009

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: End-stage alcoholic liver disease is common, with many of these patients referred for liver transplantation (LT). Alcohol relapse after LT can have detrimental outcomes such as graft loss and can contribute to a negative public perception of LT.

OBJECTIVE: To identify factors that predict the recurrence of harmful alcohol consumption after LT.

METHODS: A total of 80 patients who underwent LT for alcoholic cirrhosis or had significant alcohol consumption in association with another primary liver disease, from July 1992 to June 2006 in British Columbia, were retrospectively evaluated by chart review. Several demographic-, psychosocial- and addiction-related variables were studied. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to test possible associations among the variables studied and a return to harmful drinking after LT.

RESULTS: The relapse rate of harmful alcohol consumption post-liver transplant was 10%, with two patient deaths occurring directly as a result of alcohol relapse. Univariate analysis revealed relapse was significantly associated with pretransplant abstinence of less than six months (P=0.003), presence of psychiatric comorbidities (P=0.016), female sex (P=0.019) and increased personal stressors (P=0.044), while age at transplant of younger than 50 years approached significance (P=0.054). Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed the following independent factors for relapse: pretransplant abstinence of less than six months (OR 77.07; standard error 1.743; P=0.013) and female sex (OR 18.80; standard error 1.451; P=0.043).

CONCLUSION: The findings of the present study strongly support a required minimum of six months of abstinence before LT because duration of abstinence was found to be the strongest predictor of recidivism. Female sex, younger age at transplant and psychiatric comorbidities were also associated with relapse to harmful drinking.