Management of chronic viral hepatitis before and after renal transplantation

Transplantation. 2002 Aug 27;74(4):427-37. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200208270-00001.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is present in 2-50% of renal transplant recipients and patients receiving hemodialysis. Renal transplantation confers an overall survival benefit in HCV positive (HCV+) hemodialysis patients, with similar 5-year patient and graft survival to those without HCV infection. However, longer-term studies have reported increased liver-related mortality in HCV-infected recipients. Unfortunately, attempts to eradicate HCV infection before transplant have been disappointing. Interferon is poorly tolerated in-patients with end-stage renal disease and ribavirin is contraindicated because reduced renal clearance results in severe hemolysis. Antiviral therapy following renal transplantation is also poorly tolerated, because of interferon-induced rejection and graft loss. Although the prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection has declined in hemodialysis patients and renal transplant recipients since the introduction of routine vaccination and other infection control measures, it remains high within countries with endemic HBV infection (especially Asia-Pacific and Africa). Renal transplantation is associated with reduced survival in HBsAg+ hemodialysis patients. Unlike interferon, lamivudine is a safe and effective antiviral HBV treatment both before and after renal transplantation. Lamivudine therapy commenced at transplantation should prevent early posttransplant reactivation and subsequent progression to cirrhosis and late liver failure. This preemptive therapy should also eradicate early liver failure from fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis. Because cessation of treatment may lead to severe lamivudine-withdrawal hepatitis, most patients require long-term therapy. The development of lamivudine-resistance will be accelerated by immunosuppression and may result in severe hepatitis flares with decompensation. Regular monitoring with liver function tests and HBV DNA measurements should enable early detection and rescue with adefovir. Chronic HCV and HBV infections are important causes of morbidity and mortality in renal transplant recipients. The best predictor for liver mortality is advanced liver disease at the time of transplant, and liver biopsy should be considered in all potential HBsAg+ or HCV+ renal transplant candidates without clinical or radiologic evidence of cirrhosis. Established cirrhosis with active viral infection should be considered a relative contraindication to isolated renal transplantation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / analysis
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / immunology
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Prevalence
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines