Background: Consideration of the prognosis of patients with liver cirrhosis is important when determining the appropriate timing of liver transplantation. Especially in Japan, where 99% of liver transplants are from living donors, timing is very important not only for the patient but also for the family, who need time to consider the various factors involved in living donations. Methods: To clarify the applicability of the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score in Japanese patients with cirrhosis, changes in the MELD score over 24 months were reviewed in 79 patients with cirrhosis who subsequently died of liver failure (n = 33) or who survived 24 months (n = 46). All patients had Child class B or C cirrhosis at the start of follow-up. We also compared their survival with that of 30 patients treated by living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) in our institute to determine the proper timing of transplantation in patients with cirrhosis. Results: Significant stratification of survival curves was observed for MELD scores of <12, 12-15, 15-18, and >18 (P = 0.0018). A significant survival benefit of LDLT was observed in patients with MELD score -15 (P = 0.0181), and significantly more risk with transplantation was observed in those with MELD score <15 compared with that of patients in whom the disease followed its natural course (P = 0.0168). Conclusions: MELD score is useful for predicting 1-year survival in Japanese patients with cirrhosis. MELD scores of 15 had discriminatory value for indicating a survival benefit to be gained by liver transplantation and thus can be used to help patients and their families by identifying patients who would benefit from LDLT.
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