Development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease after orthotopic liver transplantation for cryptogenic cirrhosis

Liver Transpl. 2001 Apr;7(4):363-73. doi: 10.1053/jlts.2001.23011.


Many subjects with cryptogenic cirrhosis have underlying nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The natural history of NASH-related cryptogenic cirrhosis after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is not well defined. A primarily retrospective study of patients with the clinical histological phenotype of NASH-related cirrhosis undergoing OLT was performed. Data were compared with 2 sets of age- and weight-matched controls with (1) primary biliary cirrhosis or primary sclerosing cholangitis or (2) alcoholic liver disease. After OLT, all patients were managed by a standard immunosuppressive protocol. Liver biopsies were performed at 6 and 12 months after OLT and at 1- to 2-year intervals thereafter, as well as when liver enzyme levels were elevated enough to warrant diagnostic biopsy. Twenty-seven subjects with cryptogenic cirrhosis and a clinical histological phenotype of NASH and 3 patients with a long-standing diagnosis of NASH before OLT were included. The 30-day perioperative mortality was 1 in 30 patients. During a median follow-up of 3.5 +/- 2.7 years, 2 additional patients died of sepsis. There was a time-dependent increase in the risk for allograft steatosis that approached 100% by 5 years compared with only an approximately 25% incidence of steatosis in the control groups (P <.009, log-rank test). On multivariate analysis, only the cumulative steroid dose correlated with time to development of allograft steatosis. Three patients developed histological progression from hepatic steatosis to steatohepatitis. Of these, 1 patient developed progressive fibrosis. Four patients experienced at least 1 episode of acute cellular rejection; however, no patient developed chronic rejection or graft failure. In conclusion, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs frequently after OLT in patients with the phenotype of NASH-related cirrhosis. Despite the frequent histological recurrence of disease, clinical outcomes are similar to those of other groups of patients undergoing OLT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Liver / etiology*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Retrospective Studies