Background/aims: After liver transplantation for autoimmune hepatitis, the long-term results and the incidence of recurrence of primary disease are unknown.
Methods: In this retrospective study we reviewed the clinical course of 25 patients transplanted for autoimmune hepatitis and followed for a mean of 5.3 years (2-8.5 years).
Results: The actuarial 5-year patient and graft survival rates were 91% (+/-6%) and 83% (+/-8%). The actuarial 1-year rate of acute rejection was 50% (+/-10.2%), which was comparable to that of patients transplanted for primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. Autoantibodies persisted in 77% of patients, at a lower titer than before liver transplantation. Ten patients were excluded from the study of autoimmune hepatitis recurrence, one because of an early postoperative death and nine because of hepatitis C virus infection acquired before or after liver transplantation. In the remaining 15 patients, who were free of hepatitis C virus infection, 5-year patient and graft survivals were 100% and 87%, respectively. Despite triple immunosuppressive therapy, three patients (20%) developed chronic hepatitis with histological and serological features of autoimmune hepatitis in the absence of any other identifiable cause. The disease was severe in two patients, leading to graft failure and asymptomatic in another, despite marked histological abnormalities. In one of these three patients, autoimmune hepatitis recurred on the second liver graft as well.
Conclusions: Patients undergoing liver transplantation for autoimmune hepatitis have an excellent survival rate although severe primary disease may recur, suggesting the need for stronger post-operative immunosuppressive therapy.