Orthotopic liver transplantation reverses the adverse nutritional changes of end-stage liver disease in children

Richard I.G. Holt*, Effrat Broide, Charles R. Buchanan, John P. Miell, Alastair J. Baker, Alex P. Mowat, Giorgina Mieli-Vergani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The changes in growth and body composition after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) were studied in 61 children [median age at OLT 3.49 y (range: 0.04-14.5 y), 26 boys and 35 girls] who had survived ≤ 1 y post- OLT. Height, weight, midarm circumference (MAC), triceps skinfold thickness (TSF), and subscapular skinfold thickness (SSF) were measured at OLT, 3 and 6 mo later, then annually up to 5 y. SD scores (SDS) were derived from population standards. Results are reported as mean SDS ± SEM. At OLT the children were short and malnourished (height: 0.98 ± 0.22; weight: -0.82 ± 0.18; MAC: 1.77 ± 0.21; TSF: -1.27 ± 0.17; SSF: -1.49 ± 0.17). By 3 mo post-OLT, there was a sustained improvement in MAC (-0.73 ± 0.22), TSF (- 0.47 ± 0.18), and SSF (-0.50 ± 0.18). Weight SDS (-0.48 ± 0.20) improved by 6 mo without significant change in height SDS. The three children with Alagille syndrome were smaller (height, weight, and MAC) than children with other diagnoses but did show catch-up growth. Fulminant hepatic failure was not associated with growth failure before or after OLT. Infants (n = 14) were smaller and more malnourished at OLT (smaller skinfold thicknesses and lower weight SDS) than those who received transplants at an older age. By 1 y post- OLT, the only persisting difference was in TSF. Abnormal liver function at 1 y post-OLT (n = 8) and repeated episodes of steroid-treated rejection (n = 13) were associated with worsening height and weight SDS. The use of tacrolimus for graft salvage from rejection (n = 6) was not associated with growth failure. In conclusion, end-stage liver disease has a more adverse effect on MAC, TSF, and SSF than on height and weight, but a marked and rapid improvement occurred post-OLT. Children who were most severely malnourished and growth restricted at the time of OLT showed the greatest catch-up growth after OLT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-542
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997


  • Orthotopic liver transplantation
  • children
  • growth
  • nutrition


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