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Prognostic markers at adolescence in patients requiring liver transplantation for biliary atresia in adulthood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Vandana Jain, Charlotte Burford, Emma C. Alexander, Harry Sutton, Anil Dhawan, Deepak Joshi, Mark Davenport, Nigel Heaton, Nedim Hadzic, Marianne Samyn

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

King's Authors


Background & Aims: In patients with biliary atresia (BA), the rate of native liver survival (NLS) to adulthood has been reported as 14–44% worldwide. Complications related to portal hypertension (PHT) and cholangitis are common in adulthood. For those requiring liver transplantation (LT), the timing can be challenging. The aim of this study was to identify variables that could predict whether young people with BA would require LT when they are >16 years of age. Methods: This study was a single-centre retrospective analysis of 397 patients who underwent Kasai portoenterostomy (KP) between 1980–96 in the UK. After KP, 111/397 (28%) demonstrated NLS until 16 years of age. At final follow-up, 67 showed NLS when >16 years old (Group 1) and 22 required LT when >16 years old (Group 2). Laboratory, clinical and radiological parameters were collected for both groups at a median age of 16.06 years (13.6–17.4 years). Results: The need for LT when >16 years old was associated with higher total bilirubin (hazard ratio 1.03, p = 0.019) and lower creatinine (hazard ratio 0.95, p = 0.040), at 16 years, on multivariate analysis. Receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis demonstrated that a total bilirubin level of ≥21 µmol/L at 16 years old (AUROC = 0.848) predicted the need for LT when >16 years old, with 85% sensitivity and 74% specificity. Cholangitis episode(s) during adolescence were associated with a 5-fold increased risk of needing LT when >16 years old. The presence of PHT or gastro-oesophageal varices in patients <16 years old was associated with a 7-fold and 8.6-fold increase in the risk of needing LT, respectively. Conclusions: BA in adulthood requires specialised management. Adult liver disease scoring models are not appropriate for this cohort. Bilirubin ≥21 µmol/L, PHT or gastro-oesophageal varices at 16 years, and cholangitis in adolescence, can predict the need for future LT in young people with BA. Low creatinine at 16 years also has potential prognostic value. Lay summary: Patients with biliary atresia commonly require liver transplantation before reaching adulthood. Those who reach adulthood with their own liver are still at risk of needing a transplant. This study aimed to identify tests that could help clinicians predict which patients with biliary atresia who reach the age of 16 without a transplant will require one in later life. The study found that the presence of bilirubin ≥21 µmol/L, lower creatinine levels, and a history of portal hypertension or gastro-oesophageal varices at 16 years, as well as cholangitis in adolescence, could predict the future likelihood of needing a liver transplant for young people with biliary atresia.

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