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Transplantation. 1999 Apr 15;67(7):1024-8.

Rescue hepatectomy for initial graft non-function after liver transplantation.

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Klinik für Abdominal und Transplantationschirurgie, Medizinische Hochschule, Hannover, Germany.



Early retransplantation is the therapy of choice in patients with initial graft nonfunction (INF). In rare cases the patients' conditions deteriorate dramatically with severe cardiovascular and/or pulmonary insufficiency while on the waiting list for retransplantation. In this life-threatening situation removal of the graft and temporary portocaval shunt before allocation of a new liver proved to be effective. Our experience with this two-stage hepatectomy and subsequent liver transplantation in patients with complicated INF is reported.


Hepatectomy was performed in 20 patients with INF associated with severe cardiovascular and pulmonary insufficiency while on the waiting list for emergency liver retransplantation. The mean age was 41.75+/-16.64 years. The time period between primary transplantation and hepatectomy was 2.80+/-2.84 days with a range from 1 to 9 days.


Hepatectomy reduced the need for vasopressive agents and improved pulmonary function in the majority of patients. Four patients died before a liver was available due to brain death in one patient and multiorgan failure in three patients. In the remaining 16 patients liver transplantation could be performed after 19.82+/-15.34 hr (range 6.58 to 72.50 hr). Two of the 16 transplanted patients died on the first postoperative day due to multiorgan failure and pneumonia. The remaining 14 of 16 patients survived retransplantation, but 7 died between days 13 and 105 mostly due to sepsis. Seven patients were discharged from the hospital in good condition and show long-term survival.


Hepatectomy was able to stabilize the cardiovascular and pulmonary function. This study confirms the beneficial effects of hepatectomy and subsequent liver transplantation as a life-saving procedure in patients with INF complicated by cardiovascular and/or pulmonary instability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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