Intestinal Transplantation Workup

Updated: Mar 16, 2021
  • Author: Oya M Andacoglu, MD; Chief Editor: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM  more...
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Laboratory Studies

Pretransplant workup

The evaluation of a potential recipient is done by a multidisciplinary team with members from transplant surgery, gastroenterology, nutritional services, psychiatry, social work, anesthesia, and financial services. Further consultation with other specialties may be required.

Basic laboratory studies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Coagulation profile
  • Complete metabolic panel
  • Liver function tests 
  • ABO blood group determination
  • Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) status
  • Panel reactive antibody (PRA) status
  • Screening for HIV and hepatitis B and C virus infection
  • Serologies for cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)

The GI tract is almost always assessed both radiologically (with contrast studies) and endoscopically. If liver disease is suspected, a liver biopsy can be performed. Since 2007, 23 points are added to patients' Pediatric End Stage Liver Disease (PELD) score if their liver disease is due to intestinal failure. [12] This is because patients with intestinal failure–associated liver disease (IFALD) have higher mortality rates on the transplant wait list.

A newer scoring system, the Pediatric Hepatology Score (PHD), has been shown to be more specific for the detection of wait list mortality than the PELD. [12] Developed in the United Kingdom, this scoring system has yet to gain wide use in the United States. [12]

Doppler ultrasonography or magnetic resonance venography should be performed to assess vascular access. Many patients will have at least one central venous stenosis or obstruction. Matsusaki et al reported no difference in recipient outcome between standard vascular access (percutaneous line via the upper body veins) and alternative vascular access (percutaneous line via the lower body veins; vascular access secured surgically, with interventional radiology, or using nonvenous sites). [20]

Patients with dysmotility disorders may require manometry of the stomach, esophagus, and rectum. Children with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) require a full neurologic and pulmonary workup to exclude the possibility of associated intraventricular hemorrhage and bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Living related-donor transplantation can be discussed as an option if a potential donor is available. Most often, the terminal ileum is used. [21] It is possible to remove the graft laparoscopically to minimize cosmetic concerns. [22] The ethics of living donation are important. The risks and benefits of the procedure should be discussed, including the risk of complications from graft removal. [23]

While on the waiting list, patients are frequently reassessed, with specific attention given to any change in medical status, deterioration in liver function, or further loss of vascular access. These patients also need ongoing maintenance of their central lines to minimize line-related complications, such as infections and thrombosis.


Other Tests

Plasma Citrulline

Plasma citrulline levels have emerged as a measure for overall for intestinal health. Citrulline is made almost exclusively by enterocytes. Thus, clinicians can measure citrulline trends to assess whether a patient is indeed in intestinal failure and not recovering bowel function. [24, 25, 26] This would support a more urgent need for TPN, and possibly transplantation. A study by Lopez et al. noted that citrulline values greater than 15 micromoles/liter could predict successful withdrawal of TPN  [27] . It is important to note that citrulline is excreted from the kidneys; hence renal damage can obscure interpretation of results.

Workup for cadaveric donors

Although ABO-compatible donors can be used, ABO-identical donors are preferred in most circumstances because of the risk of graft versus host disease (GVHD). Tissue typing includes but not limited to virtual crossmatch, flow and CDC cross match. 

When patients have DSA (donor specific antibody) or if they have high PRA, these patients are defined as "sensitized" and there are "desensitization" protocols to reduce the antibody load via intravenous immune globulin (IVIG),  plasmapheresis and/or  rituximab prior to transplant  [28] .

The size of the donor is important. For multivisceral or intestinal transplant smaller size is desirable. In certain circumstances, segments of the intestine from a larger donor may be considered.

Intestine donors are usually young and otherwise healthy patients who suffered brain death. As with all transplants, the donor should have no significant hemodynamic instability, sepsis, history of malignancy or chronic infection, severe hypoxia, or severe acidosis, and negative serology for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C is preferable.

CMV and EBV serologic status of the donors and recipients should be taken in consideration. Transplantation from a serologically positive donor into a serologically negative recipient for either of these viruses can have serious consequences. In addition to the risk of a systemic CMV infection, CMV enteritis can occur, which can lead to graft loss. A new EBV infection combined with posttransplant immunosuppression puts the patient at high risk for developing a posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD). [29]

Workup for living donors

A potential living donor also needs to be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team. As with any living donor procedure, possible complications including bleeding and death should be explained in great detail. The living donor should have a complete workup, including CBC, electrolytes, liver function tests, electrocardiogram, and chest radiography. The GI tract should be endoscopically evaluated, and, if any concerns are noted, GI contrast studies should be performed. The mesenteric vasculature should be studied to ensure that the terminal superior mesenteric artery and vein are adequate.