Chronic hepatitis C and liver transplantation

Rev Gastroenterol Disord. Winter 2004;4(1):7-17.


Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a worldwide health problem. Approximately 4 million people in the United States are chronically infected with HCV. The incidence of infection peaked between 2 and 3 decades ago, and we are now beginning to see an increase in the complications of cirrhosis from HCV. This trend is expected to continue for another 2 to 3 decades. Survival is poor once complications of cirrhosis, such as liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma, ensue, and liver transplantation is often the only option. Complications of chronic HCV are the most common indication for liver transplantation, accounting for more than 40% of transplants performed in the United States and Europe. HCV recurs in all patients and rapid development of hepatic fibrosis is very common. Several strategies have been proposed to reduce the risk of graft loss from recurrent HCV infection after transplantation, as the progression of the resulting liver disease is rapid. Although antiviral treatment is successful in some patients, it is extremely difficult to administer and requires dose reductions in the majority of cases. Retransplantation in the current era of the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) system for prioritizing listing for transplant is associated with very low survival rates at a high cost. Furthermore, the system raises difficult ethical issues of utilization of limited resources and fairness to other transplant candidates.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents
  • Disease Progression
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Interferons / therapeutic use
  • Liver Cirrhosis / surgery
  • Liver Cirrhosis / virology
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Recurrence
  • Reoperation


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferons