Postoperative liver failure (PLF) is a rare but often fatal complication of major hepatic resection. Use of orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) for PLF remains undefined. We conducted a retrospective review of 435 patients who underwent hepatic resection between 1990 and 2004; 9 of them (2.0%) developed PLF. Indications for resection included primary hepatic malignancies (8), colonic metastases (2), and echinococcic cyst (1); all resections were multisegmental, 6 were extended, and 2 were lobectomies. A total of 7 patients underwent OLT at a mean of 25 days after resection. Patients developing PLF had significantly lower preoperative platelet counts and significant elevations of total bilirubin, direct bilirubin, prothrombin time, and international normalized ratio (INR) by postoperative day 2. Pathological cirrhosis and extended right lobectomy were associated with significantly increased risk of PLF. Following OLT, there were no in-hospital deaths, but 1 patient required retransplantation for primary nonfunction. Mean survival with and without OLT was 42.2 and 1.4 months, respectively (P = 0.03). Following OLT, 1 - and 5-yr patient survivals were 88% and 40%, respectively; 1 - and 5-yr graft survivals were 75% and 34%, respectively. In conclusion, patients with low platelets, biopsy-proven cirrhosis, or those undergoing extended resection are at increased risk for PLF. OLT for PLF has significant morbidity but allows salvage of an otherwise fatal condition.
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