March 1996

Hepatitis C Viral Infection in Liver Transplantation

Author Affiliations

From the Transplantation (Drs Johnson and Cosimi) and Gastrointestinal, Medical Services (Dr Dienstag) Units and the Department of Infectious Disease (Dr Basgoz), Massachusetts General Hospital, the Hepatobiliary Unit, New England Deaconess Hospital (Drs Washburn and Jenkins), and the Division of Transplantation, New England Medical Center (Dr Freeman and Ms FitzMaurice), Boston, Mass. Dr Johnson is now with the Department of Surgery, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Arch Surg. 1996;131(3):284-291. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1996.01430150062013

Objective:  To study the outcomes of patients who underwent liver transplantation for the primary diagnosis of chronic active hepatitis secondary to hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Design and Setting:  Retrospective review within a university medical center.

Patients:  Seventy-four adult recipients who received 78 orthotopic liver allografts for the primary diagnosis of chronic active hepatitis secondary to HCV between January 1990 and December 1994. Sixty-seven patients (91%) survived more than 2 months and were analyzed further for recurrent HCV infection.

Main Outcome Measures:  Recurrence of HCV infection, hepatitis, or cirrhosis and survival rates for patients who were undergoing orthotopic liver transplantation for chronic active hepatitis secondary to HCV.

Results:  Actuarial survival rates for the entire group were 79.3%, 70.9%, and 64.5% at 1, 2, and 3 years, respectively. Four patients (5%) underwent retransplantation with an actuarial survival rate of 14.3% at 1 year (P<.05). Thirty-eight patients (57%) had evidence of posttransplant HCV infection, 31 patients (46%) showed histologic evidence of viral hepatitis, and 11 patients (16%) experienced portal fibrosis or cirrhosis. Seven (33%) of the deaths and all retransplantations were secondary to recurrent HCV infection. There were no significant differences in age, sex, United Network of Organ Sharing status, associated diagnoses, intraoperative packed red blood cell requirements, OKT3 use, or 1-, 2-, and 3-year survival rates in the recurrent vs nonrecurrent HCV infection groups. A higher incidence of posttransplant cirrhosis was observed in patients who were treated with tacrolimus (FK 506) (31.8% vs 8.9%, P<.05). Twenty-one patients (70%) received interferon alfa antiviral therapy with a significant benefit in the liver function test results during therapy (P<.01).

Conclusions:  Despite recurrence of HCV infection in most patients after transplantation, survival following primary orthotopic liver transplantation for chronic active hepatititis secondary to HCV infection remains favorable, and these patients should continue to be candidates for liver transplantation. In contrast, survival following retransplantation for HCV infection is poor and should be reconsidered. There is an apparent association between the intensity of immunosuppression and recurrent HCV infection and cirrhosis that warrants continued evaluation. Interferon therapy appears to afford benefit to patients in whom recurrent HCV hepatitis develops after transplantation.(Arch Surg. 1996;131:284-291)