Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease after liver transplantation for cryptogenic cirrhosis or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Liver Transpl. 2010 Apr;16(4):431-9. doi: 10.1002/lt.22004.


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) may account for many cases of cryptogenic cirrhosis. If so, then steatosis might recur after liver transplantation. Two thousand fifty-two patients underwent primary liver transplantation for chronic liver disease between 1986 and 2004. Serial liver biopsy samples were assessed for steatosis and fibrosis. Two hundred fifty-seven patients (12%) had a pretransplant diagnosis of cryptogenic cirrhosis (239) or NASH (18). Fatty liver developed in 31% and was more common when the pretransplant diagnosis was NASH (45% at 5 years versus 23% for cryptogenic cirrhosis, P = 0.007). NASH developed in only 4% and occurred exclusively when steatosis had already occurred. Steatosis after liver transplantation was associated with the baseline body weight and body mass index by univariate analyses, but no pretransplant or posttransplant characteristic independently predicted steatosis after liver transplantation because obesity was so common in all groups. Five percent and 10% developed bridging fibrosis or cirrhosis after 5 and 10 years, respectively, and this was more common after NASH (31%) than in those who developed steatosis alone (6%) or had no fat (3%, P = 0.002). One-, 5-, and 10-year survival was the same in patients who underwent transplantation for cryptogenic cirrhosis or NASH (86%, 71%, and 56%) and in patients who underwent transplantation for other indications (86%, 71%, and 53%; not significant), but death was more often due to cardiovascular disease and less likely from recurrent liver disease. In conclusion, fatty liver is common after liver transplantation for cryptogenic cirrhosis or NASH but is twice as common in the latter group; this suggests that some cryptogenic cirrhosis, but perhaps not all, is caused by NASH. Posttransplant NASH is unusual, and steatosis appears to be a prerequisite. Advanced fibrosis is uncommon, and survival is the same as that of patients who undergo transplantation for other causes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Constriction, Pathologic
  • Fatty Liver / complications
  • Fatty Liver / etiology*
  • Fatty Liver / therapy*
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / complications
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Fibrosis / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Liver Transplantation / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome