Graft loss and the antiphospholipid syndrome following liver transplantation

J Hepatol. 1998 Dec;29(6):999-1003. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(98)80130-x.


Background/aims: The antiphospholipid syndrome is characterised by arterial and venous thromboses affecting small and large vessels, together with the presence of lupus anticoagulant and anticardiolipin antibodies.

Methods: We report two cases of the antiphospholipid syndrome following liver transplantation which resulted in hepatic vessel thrombosis and subsequent graft loss, and we discuss the value of anticoagulation in prevention of further thrombotic episodes. Identification of these cases prompted a retrospective analysis for the presence of IgG anticardiolipin antibody, the most useful laboratory marker of vascular thrombosis in the antiphospholipid syndrome. Serum taken at 2 to 4 weeks following transplantation (when thrombotic events might be anticipated) was analysed further in 132 patients undergoing liver transplantation.

Results: Hepatic vessel thrombosis occurred in 21/132 (16%) post transplantation. Anticardiolipin IgG was present in 2/21 (8.8%) recipients who developed a hepatic vessel thrombosis following liver transplantation, compared to 7/111 (6.3%) (p=0.59) in whom transplantation was not complicated by hepatic vessel thrombosis.

Conclusions: The presence of IgG anticardiolipin antibody was uncommon in recipients following liver transplantation and was not associated with an increased risk of hepatic vessel thrombosis. In contrast, the antiphospholipid syndrome which is rare may result in hepatic artery occlusion and graft loss, and so prompt recognition of the clinical syndrome is critical. Although screening for the antibody is not warranted in liver transplant recipients, it is important to be aware of the syndrome as optimal management of such cases may prevent graft loss.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Anticardiolipin / blood
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome / etiology*
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection
  • Hepatic Artery
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thrombosis / etiology
  • Venous Thrombosis / etiology


  • Antibodies, Anticardiolipin