Structural integrity and identification of causes of liver allograft dysfunction occurring more than 5 years after transplantation

Am J Surg Pathol. 1995 Feb;19(2):192-206. doi: 10.1097/00000478-199502000-00008.


The clinicopathologic features of liver allograft dysfunction occurring in 51 symptomatic recipients after more than 5 years' survival (mean 7.1 years) with the same hepatic allograft were compared with those of a similar group of 14 asymptomatic patients (mean survival, 9.9 years) who underwent a nonclinically indicated protocol liver biopsy evaluation. Predictably, patients who had clinically indicated biopsies more frequently showed histopathologic alterations (76% versus 36%, p < 0.002). After detailed clinicopathologic correlation, the changes in the symptomatic patients were attributed primarily to definite or presumed viral hepatitis in 17 of 51 (33%) patients, 11 of whom had recurrent viral disease; seven of 51 (14%) had nonviral recurrent original disease, three (6%) had obstructive cholangiopathy, and 11 (22%) had acute and/or chronic rejection. In 13 of 51 (25%) of the symptomatic patients, the clinical and pathologic abnormalities were minimal. Long-term liver allograft survival in nine of 14 (64%) of the asymptomatic patients was associated with minimally abnormal histologic alterations. Two of the asymptomatic patients had obstructive cholangiopathy; two others has recurrence of the original disease and one has possible viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis types B and C, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, granulomatous hepatitis (not otherwise specified), and probably primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis were shown to recur after hepatic transplantation. The histopathologic changes associated with acute and chronic rejection frequently overlapped with other syndromes causing late dysfunction, such as chronic viral or autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, or primary sclerosing cholangitis; more than one insult could be identified in 15 cases, which made the differential diagnosis of causes of late liver allograft dysfunction much more difficult than early after hepatic transplantation. It is important to correlate the biopsy findings with the liver injury tests, the results of viral and autoimmune antibody serologic studies, and review of previous biopsies and to be aware of the original disease, recent changes in immunosuppression, and results of therapeutic intervention(s) to identify correctly the causes of liver allograft dysfunction in this patient population.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Biliary Tract Diseases / pathology
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / pathology
  • Graft Survival
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Liver Diseases / pathology*
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Liver Transplantation / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors