Hepatitis B-core antibody positive donors in liver transplantation and their impact on graft survival: evidence from the Liver Match cohort study

J Hepatol. 2013 Apr;58(4):715-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2012.11.025. Epub 2012 Nov 28.


Background & aims: The appropriate allocation of grafts from HBcAb positive donors in liver transplantation is crucial, yet a consensus is still lacking.

Methods: We evaluated this issue within Liver Match, a prospective observational Italian study. Data from 1437 consecutive, first transplants performed in 2007-2009 using grafts from deceased heart beating donors were analyzed (median follow-up: 1040 days). Of these, 219 (15.2%) were HBcAb positive. Sixty-six HBcAb positive grafts were allocated to HBsAg positive and 153 to HBsAg negative recipients.

Results: 329 graft losses occurred (22.9%): 66 (30.1%) among 219 recipients of HBcAb positive grafts, and 263 (21.6%) among 1218 recipients of HBcAb negative grafts. Graft survival was lower in recipients of HBcAb positive compared to HBcAb negative donors, with unadjusted 3-year graft survival of 0.69 (s.e. 0.032) and 0.77 (0.013), respectively (log-rank, p=0.0047). After stratifying for recipient HBsAg status, this difference was only observed among HBsAg negative recipients (log rank, p=0.0007), 3-year graft survival being excellent (0.88, s.e. 0.020) among HBsAg positive recipients, regardless of the HBcAb donor status (log rank, p=0.4478). Graft loss due to de novo HBV hepatitis occurred only in one patient. At Cox regression, hazard ratios for graft loss were: MELD (1.30 per 10 units, p=0.0002), donor HBcAb positivity (1.56, p=0.0015), recipient HBsAg positivity (0.43, p <0.0001), portal vein thrombosis (1.99, p=0.0156), and DRI (1.41 per unit, p=0.0325).

Conclusions: HBcAb positive donor grafts have better outcomes when transplanted into HBsAg positive than HBsAg negative recipients. These findings suggest that donor HBcAb positivity requires more stringent allocation strategies.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Donor Selection / methods*
  • Female
  • Graft Survival
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies / blood*
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Liver Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Liver Transplantation* / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tissue Donors*


  • Hepatitis B Antibodies
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens