We have observed an increased rate of delayed non-function (DNF) of liver grafts procured from older donors. The aim of this study was to correlate donor age and the patterns of graft failure after transplantation. Pattern of liver injury, synthetic function, and graft survival in recipients receiving liver grafts from donor older than age 50 (group I, n=95) were compared with matched cohort of recipients transplanted with grafts from donors age 20-30 (group III, n=50). Primary nonfunction (PNF) of the graft was defined as non- recoverable hepatocellular function necessitating emergency retransplantation within 72 hr. DNF was defined as marginal graft function necessitating retransplantation within one month. Recipient characteristics, including age and preoperative UNOS status, were similar between groups. Ischemic/reperfusion injury, reflected by SGOT and SGPT was more severe in older donors. PNF occurred at similar frequencies for all groups (7%). Normal liver function was regained in 76% of recipients in group I, and in 92% in group II. However, cholestatic pattern was observed in recipient of grafts from group I donors. Rapid rise in bilirubin, despite normalization of prothrombin time and liver transaminases, was the hallmark of DNF. DNF resulted in higher retransplantation rate in group I (24% vs. 8% in group II). Donor age did not affect patient survival. Liberalizing criteria for donor selection, and acceptance of older donors is a calculated risk. Over 75% of the recipients will regain normal liver function. However, a higher number of these grafts will exhibit slow recovery after transplantation, and a significant rate of DNF. Recognition of such pattern and early retransplantation should decrease mortality.
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