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Liver Transpl. 2007 Sep;13(9):1219-27.

Liver transplantation for porphyria: who, when, and how?

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Liver and Hepatobiliary Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Porphyrias are a heterogenous group of diseases that may result in disabling or life threatening neurovisceral symptoms and/or cutaneous photosensitivity. In acute intermittent porphyria, the clinical features, particularly neurological symptoms, may be life-threatening and disabling. Conventional treatment with human hemin, though effective in reducing symptoms, does not reverse neuropathy when structural nerve damage has occurred and may cause intense phlebitis. Liver transplantation (LT) may be considered as treatment for those with repeated life-threatening acute attacks resulting in poor quality of life, requirement of ventilatory support, and progressive loss of venous access due to hemin infusion. Patients with variegate porphyria (VP) present after puberty with neurovisceral symptoms and skin manifestations. LT resolved VP in the 1 patient reported in the literature. Aminolaevulinic acid dehydratase deficient porphyria is a rare autosomal recessive disorder and a child who presented with failure to thrive and required transfusions and parenteral nutrition did not improve with LT. In erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), there is excessive production of protoporphyrin in the bone marrow. Protoporphyrin is hepatotoxic and pigment loading of hepatocytes and bile canalicular sludging may result in progressive cholestasis and cirrhosis. LT is beneficial for such patients with end-stage liver disease. Perioperative management includes use of filters on operative lights to prevent skin burns and intestinal perforation. Other concerns include development of neuropathy, biliary complications, and recurrent liver disease. This review addresses the rationale, patient selection, evaluation, management issues, and technique of performing LT in various types of porphyria.

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