Recurrence of autoimmune liver disease after liver transplantation: a systematic review

Liver Transpl. 2006 Dec;12(12):1813-24. doi: 10.1002/lt.20910.


Recurrence of autoimmune liver disease in allografts has long been a topic of debate. We conducted a systematic review of the literature to examine the reported incidence of recurrence after liver transplantation of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), and autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). The MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane electronic databases were used to identify articles. The inclusion criteria used were articles on patients with at least 90 days of posttransplantation follow-up, histologic criteria for diagnosis of PBC and AIH recurrence, radiologic or histologic criteria or both for diagnosis of PSC recurrence, and exclusion of other causes of liver disease causing similar histologic findings. Incidence in individual studies was combined to calculate the overall recurrence. Risk factors were analyzed whenever crude data were available. Funnel plots were used to assess publication bias. Out of 90 articles identified, 43 met criteria for systematic review (PBC, 16; PSC, 14; AIH, 13). The calculated weighted recurrence rate was 18% for PBC, 11% for PSC, and 22% for AIH. No difference was found in PBC and AIH recurrence by type of primary immunosuppression. There were not enough data to assess this issue in PSC studies. There was evidence of publication bias among PSC and AIH studies but not among PBC studies. In conclusion, recurrence of autoimmune liver disease after liver transplantation appears to be a real concern. As these patients are followed long-term, recurrence of disease may become the primary cause of morbidity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery*
  • Liver Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors


  • Immunosuppressive Agents