The chances of children surviving after a liver transplant have risen by 12% over the past twenty years. Eighty-three percent of children who received a donor liver in the past ten years were still alive five years later. This figure was 71% ten years previously. The results for children who receive a liver from a living donor are even better: 95% of them are still alive after five years. Researchers from the UMCG Transplant Centre have published the results of the national paediatric liver transplantation programme in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde. The UMCG recently carried out its 500th paediatric liver transplant.
The researchers analysed data pertaining to children who had been given a liver transplant in the UMCG in the period 1995-2016. They compared the results for children who had undergone a liver transplant between 1995 and 2005 with those of children who had undergone the procedure between 2006 and 2016.
The improvement in results over the past two decades is probably due to improved operation techniques, more targeted use of immunosuppressants, and better antibiotics and anticoagulants. In addition, children with a congenital disease of the bile ducts (biliary atresia) are referred at an earlier stage, partly thanks to care for these young patients having been centralized.
The introduction of living donor transplantation in 2004 is another important factor. This procedure involves a living donor (usually one of the parents) donating a section of his or her liver to their child. The success of living donor transplants is largely down to the careful planning of the operations (usually planned well in advance), which enable both donors and recipients to become as healthy as possible, the short length of time that the liver is outside the body (because the operations are carried out in the same hospital), and the extensive screening and good health of the donor.
The UMCG was the first hospital in the Netherlands to carry out a liver transplant on an adult (1979), and the first to carry out a liver transplant on a child (1982). It is the only Dutch hospital authorized to perform this special type of surgery on children. Nowadays, approximately 150 liver transplants are performed in the Netherlands every year, around 20 of which involve children. In 2017, the UMCG passed a new milestone by carrying out its 500th paediatric liver transplant.
Read the article in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde here.