Initial liver graft function is a reliable predictor of tacrolimus trough levels during the first post-transplant week

Clin Transplant. 2011 May-Jun;25(3):436-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0012.2010.01264.x. Epub 2010 May 10.


The narrow therapeutic range of tacrolimus requires careful management after liver transplantation (LT). The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of graft function on tacrolimus trough levels during the first post-transplant week. Ninety-three patients receiving deceased-donor LT were observed in a prospective observational study. Graft function was determined by the new LiMAx test (maximal liver function capacity). Significant correlations between LiMAx readouts and consecutive tacrolimus levels, up to r = -0.529 (p < 0.0001), were determined throughout the observed period of time. Patients with initially poor graft function revealed higher trough levels (n = 24; 20.1 ± 11.6ng/mL) in comparison with fair (n = 40; 13.7 ± 7.8 ng/mL) and good function (n = 29; 9.5 ± 4.4ng/mL; p < 0.0001) already at the second post-transplant day. Toxic levels could be predicted with an area under receiver operating characteristic analysis AUROC=0.751 (p = 0.001) with high sensitivity and specificity. Insufficient levels could be predicted with AUROC=0.800 (p = 0.003). In conclusion, initial graft function is a major factor influencing the pharmacokinetics of tacrolimus and can be validly determined by the LiMAx test. Thus, recipients with poor functioning grafts are prone of developing toxic levels within the first week after LT, whereas patients with good functioning grafts frequently develop insufficient levels with the current immunosuppressive protocols.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Graft Survival / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Liver Diseases / surgery*
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Tacrolimus / pharmacokinetics*
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tissue Donors


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Tacrolimus