Background/aims: The natural history and predictors of HCV-related disease severity post-transplantation are uncertain. The aims of this study were to define the natural history of post-transplantation HCV infection by assessing the rate of fibrosis progression, to determine if the post-transplantation natural history differs from that observed pre-transplantation, and to identify predictors of post-transplantation disease progression.
Methods: Post-transplantation biopsies (mean: 3+/-1.6/patient) from 284 patients were scored according to histologic stage, using the method of Desmet et al. Change in fibrosis score (fibrosis progression/year) post-transplantation was used as the primary outcome. Predictors analyzed included viral factors (genotype and viral load at transplantation), patient demographics, year of transplantation, country of transplantation, pre-transplantation fibrosis progression, immunosuppression and laboratory data.
Results: There was a linear association between change in fibrosis score and time from transplantation, with a median rate of fibrosis progression per year of 0.3 (0.004-2.19/year). Using parametric time-to-event analysis, the expected median duration to cirrhosis was 10 years. The rate of post-transplantation fibrosis progression was significantly higher than pre-transplantation (0.2/year (0.09-0.8) p<0.0001), and higher in Spanish than US centers (0.48 (0.01-2.19) vs 0.28 (0.004-2.08); p=0.09) despite similar progression rates prior to transplantation. Variables independently associated with post-transplantation progression included year of transplantation (p=0.0001), race (p=0.02), number of methyl-prednisolone boluses (p=0.03), and HCV RNA levels at transplantation (p=0.01).
Conclusions: HCV-related disease progression is accelerated in immunocompromised compared to immunocompetent patients, with a progressive increase in patients who have recently undergone liver transplantation. Changes in patient management post-transplantation over time and between transplant centers may account for the increase in fibrosis progression observed in recent years.