Patients older than 60 are undergoing transplantation with increasing frequency. Reports from several transplant centers document that overall short-term patient survival rates in seniors undergoing liver transplantation are comparable to survival rates of younger adults. However, specific subgroups of older patients may not fare as well. Seniors with far-advanced end-stage liver disease are high-risk for liver transplantation and have poor survival rates. In addition, seniors older than 65 have worse outcomes than those who are 60 to 65, and studies have shown increased mortality with increasing age as a continuous variable. On the other hand, the majority of seniors who survive liver transplantation have full or only minimally limited functional status. Preoperative evaluation of older patients for transplantation requires careful screening to exclude cardiopulmonary disease, malignancy, and other diseases of the aged. Paradoxically, seniors may benefit from a senescent immune system, which results in decreased requirements for immunosuppressive drugs, and possibly a lower rate of acute allograft rejection. Despite good overall short-term survival in the elderly, long-term survival may be worse because of an increased rate of long-term complications, such as malignancy and heart disease. In conclusion, although advanced age is a negative risk factor, advanced age alone should not exclude a patient from liver transplantation; however, it mandates thorough pretransplant evaluation and careful long-term follow-up with attention to usual health maintenance issues in the elderly.
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