Background/aims: We retrospectively studied 63 consecutive patients (mean age 54+/-8) with hepatitis C virus genotype 1b recurrence after liver transplantation and with a minimum histological follow-up of 1 year, in order to determine whether an early severe recurrence, defined as the development of chronic active hepatitis within the first 2 years post-liver transplantation, was associated with increased immunosuppression.
Methods: The 1st year immunosuppression data (rejection episodes, boluses of methyl-prednisolone, cumulative doses of prednisone and azathioprine, OKT3 use) were recorded, and evaluated as predictive of severe recurrence at 1 and 2 years post-liver transplantation. Chronic active hepatitis and rejection were defined by histological criteria. Immunosuppression consisted of cyclosporine, azathioprine and prednisone. The treatment of rejection was based on a "bolus" of 1 g methyl-prednisolone/3 days.
Results: At 1 year, 64% (40/63) of the patients had chronic active hepatitis, whereas of the 40 patients who had a 2nd year biopsy available, 75% had chronic active hepatitis at 2 years. At 1 year post-liver transplantation, no significant association was observed between immunosuppression and the development of chronic active hepatitis. In contrast, at 2 years, rejection (p=0.006), treatment of rejection (p=0.05), methyl-prednisolone boluses (p=0.013) and the number of rejection episodes (p=0.0034) occurring during the 1st year post-liver transplantation were significantly more common in patients with chronic active hepatitis. There was also a trend towards higher cumulative steroids (9447+/-3176.5 vs 7891.5+/-2111 mg) and higher cumulative azathioprine doses (13472+/-11154 vs 6233.5+/-5937 mg) in patients with chronic active hepatitis as compared to those who did not develop chronic active hepatitis.
Conclusions: Rejection and/or its treatment may accelerate the natural history of hepatitis C virus genotype 1b infection post-liver transplantation.