A randomized clinical trial of ursodeoxycholic acid as adjuvant treatment to prevent liver transplant rejection



Acute rejection following orthotopic liver transplantation is a common problem despite current immunosuppressive regimens. Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has been shown in small, open-labeled studies to prevent rejection episodes, although its effects on complications such as infections, length of hospital stay, and survival have not been evaluated. We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial to determine if UDCA (10-15 mg/kg/d) added to a cyclosporine-based immunosuppressive regimen was associated with a decrease in the incidence of at least one episode of acute cellular rejection. Secondary end-points included determining differences in the total number of rejection episodes, the use of muromonab-CD3, the incidence of infections, length of hospital stay, and survival at 90 days and 1 year. Fifty-two patients were randomized, 28 to the treatment group and 24 to the placebo group. During the 3 months of the trial, there was no difference between the placebo and UDCA groups in the number of patients who were rejection-free; however, there were significantly fewer patients in the treatment group who had multiple episodes of acute rejection (0 vs. 6; P = .007). Patients in the treatment group experienced a significantly lower incidence of bacterial infections (4% vs. 29%; P = .02), shorter hospital stay (25 days vs. 34 days; P = .03), and better 90-day survival (100% vs. 83%; P= .04) and 1-year survival (93% vs. 79%). The addition of UDCA to a cyclosporine-based immunosuppressive regimen results in significantly fewer patients experiencing multiple episodes of rejection and improved survival at 90 days and at 1 year. The use of UDCA as adjuvant therapy for patients undergoing liver transplantation who are treated with a cyclosporine-based immunosuppressive regimen should be considered.