Primary disease recurrence after liver transplantation for alveolar echinococcosis: Long-term evaluation in 15 patients



Between 1986 and 1991, 21 patients received liver grafts in our center for incurable alveolar echinococcosis (AE). The aim of this study was to analyze the long-term results in 15 of these 21 patients who survived more than 1 year after undergoing a liver transplantation (LT). The follow-up, mainly aimed at the diagnosis of recurrence, consisted of repeated radiological and specific immunological investigations. The role of pre- and post-LT benzimidazole (BZM) therapy was also evaluated. Among the 15 patients, 8 patients had a palliative LT related to previously known pulmonary AE metastases and/or inextirpable abdominal parasitic foci. In the 7 remaining patients, LT was considered curative. In June 1998, the mean follow-up duration was 96 months (range: 28-138 months). Five late deaths occurred, 2 of them were directly related to residual AE. A reinfection of the graft was observed in 4 patients. Preoperative BZM therapy seemed useful in preventing or delaying the parasitic recurrence. Post-LT BZM was able to stabilize and even to reduce residual AE. The anti-Em2 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which is the standard test used in patient follow-up after partial liver resection for AE, did not appear useful in detecting recurrence here; however, an ELISA, using a crude heterologous antigen (Echinococcus granulosus) allowed early diagnosis of residual AE. In conclusion, primary disease recurrence is not rare after LT for AE. Immunosuppressive therapy may favor larval growth in extrahepatic sites; therefore, an extensive extrahepatic radiological check-up has to be performed before LT. BZM therapy seems to stabilize residual foci. Anti-Eg immunoglobulin G (IgG) follow-up is the most useful test for early diagnosis of parasite recurrence.