Despite the availability of whole-blood cyclosporine assays, the different responses of individual patients to its administration after transplantation continue to pose clinical problems, particularly with respect to toxicity. Fifty-seven recipients of first orthotopic liver transplants were studied between January 1992 and July 1992. Initial immunosuppression was carried out with azathioprine, methylprednisolone and cyclosporine, at a dose of 1 mg/kg/day adjusted to achieve blood levels between 400 and 600 ng/ml. Cyclosporine levels were measured 12 hr after the start of intravenous administration and correlated with the occurrence of toxic complications. Twelve patients experienced toxic complications in the first 7 days after orthotopic liver transplantation. These were neurological in six patients (of whom four also had kidney failure) and renal complications in the other six patients. All complications were reversed by reducing or stopping administration of cyclosporine. We noted excellent correlation between the occurrence of complications and cyclosporine whole-blood levels (p < 0.0001) despite the fact that levels did not exceed the therapeutic range. However, no correlation was observed between toxicity and cumulative dosage. In this study we were able to demonstrate that a standardized dose of cyclosporine does not prevent the occurrence of toxic side effects even when cyclosporine whole-blood levels are subsequently maintained in the therapeutic range. This highlights the importance of the first dose of cyclosporine and consequent early postoperative blood levels and indicates that these problems are unlikely to be overcome until a method of predicting individual requirements can be established in clinical practice. (HEPATOLOGY 1993;18:1123–1126.)
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