Hepatitis C: Indication for anti-viral therapy?
Hepatitis C infection is a frequent indication for liver transplantation. In general, recurrent graft hepatitis is assumed to be mild, but may be the cause of lethal postoperative complications in a small patient population. Out of 500 transplants in 458 patients, 123 patients were transplanted due to hepatitis C infection (26.7%) between September 1988 and April 1994. Cumulative 1- to 6-year patient survival was similar for patients transplanted due to hepatitis C (87.0%) and those transplanted for other indications (86.0%). In patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV), death, in 50% of the cases, was related to HCV recurrence and chronic rejection. Four patients (25.0%) died because of severe infection and multiple organ failure syndrome unrelated to HCV recurrence and chronic rejection. The incidence of retransplantation was similar in HCV (9.8%) and other patients (8.4%). In HCV patients, 6 of 12 retransplantations (50.0%) were performed due to HCV recurrence and chronic rejection. Of 123 HCV patients, 45 experienced histologically proven recurrent graft hepatitis between 2 weeks and 5.5 years after transplantation. The incidence of acute rejection was similar in both groups. The incidence of steroid-resistant rejection was, however, higher in HCV patients (29.3%) than in those transplanted for other indications (14.5%; P ≤ 0.05). Furthermore, there was a significant association between acute rejection and the development of recurrent graft hepatitis. In conclusion, patients with hepatitis C may be transplanted with as good patient and graft survival rates as patients transplanted for other indications. However, the combination of recurrent graft hepatitis and chronic rejection remains the most limiting factor for some of these patients, which strengthens the neccessity for a specific anti-viral therapy.
Key wordsLiver transplantation Hepatitis C Acute and chronic rejection
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