The rise in obesity in the United States, along with improvements in antiviral therapies, has led to an increase in the number of obese patients receiving liver transplants. Currently, obesity is a relative contraindication for liver transplant, although exact body mass index (BMI) limits continue to be debated. Studies conflict regarding outcomes in obese patients, while some argue that BMI should not be used as an exclusion criterion at all. Therefore, this retrospective study—utilizing a large national database—seeks to elucidate the association between recipient BMI and hospital length of stay and mortality following liver transplant.
A retrospective study was conducted using the United Network for Organ Sharing Standard Transplant Analysis and Research database. Fine-Gray competing risk regressions were used to explore the association between BMI and rate of discharge, which varies inversely with length of stay. In our model, subdistribution hazard ratio (SHR) represented the relative change in discharge rate compared to normal BMI, with in-hospital death was considered as a competing event for live discharge. Cox proportional hazard models were built to assess the association of BMI category on all-cause mortality after liver transplantation. Cluster-robust standard errors were used in all analyses to construct confidence intervals.
Within the final sample (n = 47,038), overweight (≥25 and <30 kg/m2) patients comprised the largest BMI group (34.7%). The competing risk regression model showed an association for increased length of stay among underweight (SHR = 0.82, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.77–0.89; P < .001) and class 3 obesity patients (SHR = 0.88, 95% CI, 0.83–0.94; P < .001), while overweight (SHR = 1.05, 95% CI, 1.03–1.08; P < .001) and class 1 obesity (SHR = 1.04, 95% CI, 1.01–1.07; P = .01) were associated with decreased length of stay. When the sample excluded patients with low pretransplant functional status, however, length of stay was not significantly shorter for overweight and obesity class 1 patients. Cox proportional hazard models demonstrated increased survival among overweight, class 1 and class 2 obesity patients and decreased survival among underweight patients.
Our results provide evidence that overweight and obesity class 1 are associated with decreased length of stay and mortality following liver transplant, while underweight and obesity class 3 are associated with prolonged length of stay. Pretransplant functional status may contribute to outcomes for overweight and class 1 obese patients, which necessitates continued investigation of the isolated impact of BMI in those who have had a liver transplant.