Liver transplant (LT) decisions in pediatric acute liver failure (PALF) are complex. Three phases of the PALF registry, containing data on 1,144 participants over 15 years, were interrogated to characterize clinical features associated with listing status. A decrease in the cumulative incidence of listing (P < 0.005) and receiving (P < 0.05) LT occurred without an increase in the cumulative incidence of death (P = 0.67). Time to listing was constant and early (1 day; quartiles 1-3 = 0-2; P = 0.88). The most frequent reasons for not listing were “not sick enough” and “medically unsuitable.” Participants listed for LT were more likely male, with coma grade scores >0; had higher international normalized ratio, bilirubin, lactate, and venous ammonia; and had lower peripheral lymphocytes and transaminase levels compared to those deemed “not sick enough.” Participants listed versus those deemed “medically unsuitable” were older; had higher serum aminotransferase levels, bilirubin, platelets, and albumin; and had lower lactate, venous ammonia, and lymphocyte count. An indeterminate diagnosis was more prevalent in listed participants. Ventilator (23.8%) and vasopressor (9.2%) support occurred in a significant portion of listed participants but less frequently than in those who were not “medically suitable.” Removal from the LT list was a rare event. Conclusion: The cumulative incidence of listing for and receiving LT decreased throughout the PALF study without an increase in the cumulative incidence of death. While all participants fulfilled entry criteria for PALF, significant differences were noted between participants listed for LT and those deemed “not sick enough” as well as those who were “medically unsuitable.” Having an indeterminate diagnosis and a requirement for cardiopulmonary support appeared to influence decisions toward listing; optimizing listing decisions in PALF may reduce the frequency of LT without increasing the frequency of death.
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