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Alcohol Alcohol. 2006 May-Jun;41(3):278-83. Epub 2006 Feb 13.

Predictors of relapse to harmful alcohol after orthotopic liver transplantation.

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  • 1Alcohol Problems Service, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Scotland.



End-stage alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a common indication for liver transplantation. Outcomes may be limited by return to harmful drinking. Previous studies have identified few predictors of drinking relapse.


This study examined novel postulated predictors of relapse to drinking.


The case notes of all patients transplanted for ALD at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital from 1987-2004 were reviewed. Pre-transplant characteristics were rated by a psychiatrist independent of the transplant team, blind to the outcome. Outcomes were rated by a second independent alcohol treatment specialist also blind to the pre-transplant ratings.


Of 100 patients, 6 died before discharge from hospital, 4 had <6 months follow-up, 18 relapsed to harmful drinking, 10 drank below harmful levels, and 62 remained abstinent after a mean of 5.6 years follow-up. Univariate analyses identified six potential pre-transplant predictors of return to harmful drinking. These were a diagnosis of mental illness (of which all cases were of depression), the lack of a stable partner, grams per day consumed in the years before assessment for transplant, reliance on 'family or friends' for post-transplant support, tobacco consumption at time of assessment, and lack of insight into the alcohol aetiology. Duration of pre-transplant abstinence and social class by occupation did not predict relapse. A multivariate model based on the above characteristics correctly predicted 89% of the outcomes.


A model based on readily defined behaviours and psychosocial factors predicted relapse to harmful drinking after transplant for ALD. This model may improve assessment and post-transplant management of patients with advanced ALD.

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