Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) has become standard therapy for patients with acute hepatic necrosis and end-stage liver disease. This study measured change in hepatic function (galactose elimination capacity [GEC]), liver blood flow (low dose galactose clearance: flow), hepatic volume (CT scan; volume) and morphology after OLT. The aim was to measure the physiologic response after OLT and compare this response with that after selective shunt (SS) and sclerotherapy (ES) to determine which patients should receive specific therapy. Between January 1987 and November 1988, 37 patients underwent OLT. Operative mortality was 18%, which was similar to that of SS in Child's C cirrhotics. GEC and volume were less in transplant patients than in cirrhotics treated with SS or ES. GEC, flow, and volume normalized after OLT; GEC was preserved after ES and SS, but volume decreased. Three preoperative patterns were observed that can aid in selection of OLT candidates. Patients with chronic cirrhosis (chronic active hepatitis; cryptogenic) need OLT when GEC is less than or equal to 225 mg/min and volume is less than or equal to 50% normal. Patients with Budd-Chiari Syndrome require OLT if cirrhosis has evolved. Patients with sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis qualify for transplants when complications of the portal hypertensive syndrome develop. The studies can also direct therapy for ES failures. Selective shunt is indicated in those patients with stable disease whose GEC is greater than or equal to 300 mg/min and liver volume is greater than 75% normal; OLT is indicated for cirrhotics with GEC that is less than 225 mg/min and liver volume that is less than 50% predicted normal
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