Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease in pediatric liver transplantation. Interplay between primary Epstein-Barr virus infection and immunosuppression

Transplantation. 1996 Aug 15;62(3):370-5. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199608150-00012.


The incidence, risk factors, and outcome of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) were examined for 298 children undergoing liver transplantation. The overall incidence of PTLD was 8.4% (25 of 298). Intensity of immunosuppression was found to be a major risk factor for the development of PTLD. Cyclosporine and tacrolimus when used as primary immunosuppression were associated with the development of PTLD in 4.3% and 6.6% of cases (P=NS). OKT3 and tacrolimus, when used as rescue therapy for steroid-resistant rejection, were associated with a comparable increase in the risk of developing PTLD (10.9% and 11.1%, P=NS). Patients requiring both OKT3 and tacrolimus to treat refractory rejection were at significantly increased risk for PTLD (28.1% vs. 4.3% or 6.6%, P<0.0001). PTLD was more common in patients who received transplants for Langerhans cell histiocytosis relative to other indications for transplantation (66% vs. 8.4%, P=0.0005). The data also support an association between primary Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infections following transplantation and the development of PTLD. While only three patients were EBV seropositive before transplantation (14%), 19 patients were EBV seropositive at the time of diagnosis of PTLD (90%), confirming a high incidence of primary EBV infections in patients with PTLD (21 patients had both pre- and posttransplant EBV serologies). In this series, PTLD was associated with a mortality rate of 60%, and 12 of the 15 patients who died had persistent tumor at the time of death. Five of the 13 patients rendered disease-free developed ductopenic rejection. Of the four with severe liver dysfunction, two have undergone successful retransplantation and are alive without evidence of PTLD. In conclusion, intense immunosuppression using OKT3 and tacrolimus as rescue agents was associated with a significant increase in the incidence of PTLD. Primary EBV infection after transplantation further accentuated this risk. Independent of these risk factors, patients with Langerhans cell histiocytosis were at significantly increased risk for PTLD. The identification of high-risk patients should allow the development of protocols to screen patients for primary EBV infections and early indications of PTLD, as well as the institution of preemptive antiviral and antitumor therapies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / etiology*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / therapy
  • Muromonab-CD3 / therapeutic use
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Reoperation
  • Risk Factors
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tacrolimus / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications*


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Muromonab-CD3
  • Tacrolimus