Background: Sound information is lacking about the clinical presentation of cryptogenic cirrhosis and its outcome after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT).
Methods: Among 856 patients who have been transplanted at our center, 40 patients had no evidence of any known etiologies and were therefore defined as suffering from cryptogenic cirrhosis. Their median follow-up period before OLT was 78 months (range, 1-264), and after OLT 97 months (range, 1-132). Laboratory and histological data were evaluated according to features being compatible either with a toxic, hepatitic, or cholestatic condition.
Results: The clinical and histological findings differed specifically between these three groups. The toxic-like group (GGT 4-18 x upper limit of normal [ULN]) expressed significantly higher IgA levels, had histologically more often fatty liver changes, and risk factors for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis predominated (56% compared with 3% in the other groups, P=0.01). The hepatitic-like group (ALT 2-18 x ULN) showed histologically features of chronic hepatitis or hepatitic cirrhosis, and only among these patients a median International Autoimmune Hepatitis (IAH) score of 13 was found suggesting autoimmune hepatitis (AiH). In the cholestatic group (AP 2-8 x ULN) histology was compatible with a non-toxic inflammatory process but IAH score excluded AiH in all. After OLT, actuarial graft and patients survival was 90% at 5 years. Mild or moderate graft hepatitis occurred in 9 patients (23%) and was significantly associated with a pre-OLT IAH score >or= 10 (P =0.008).
Conclusions: This study provides arguments that cryptogenic cirrhosis is a heterogeneous disease in which autoimmune mechanisms might be predominately involved and being responsible for recurrence of chronic liver disease observed in some instances after OLT.