Post-liver-transplant anemia: Etiology and management

Authors

  • Anurag Maheshwari,

    1. Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
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  • Rajnish Mishra,

    1. Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
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  • Paul J. Thuluvath

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
    • The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Room 428, 1830 E. Monument St., Baltimore MD 21204
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    • Telephone: 410-614-9612; FAX: 410-614-9612


Abstract

Anemia is common after liver transplantation, with the incidence ranging from 4.3% to 28.2% depending on the criteria used to define anemia. The cause of anemia is unidentified in the majority of patients, and it is likely to be multifactorial. Immunosuppressive-medication-induced bone marrow suppression is perhaps the most common cause of unexplained anemia. Chronic blood loss, iron deficiency, hemolysis, and renal insufficiency are other potential causes of chronic anemia. Rare causes, somewhat unique to transplantation, include aplastic anemia, graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), and lymphoproliferative disease. Anemia due to immunosuppressive medication is challenging, since almost all drugs currently used for this purpose cause anemia, but the renal-sparing property of sirolimus may benefit the subgroup in which renal insufficiency is contributing to anemia. Aplastic anemia is seen in young patients transplanted for non-A, non-B, non-C, fulminant hepatic failure. It is thought to be immunologically mediated, secondary to an unknown viral infection, and is associated with a grave prognosis. GVHD is another infrequent (approximately 1% of transplant recipients) but serious cause of severe anemia that carries a dismal prognosis. Lymphoproliferative disorder, too may rarely rare cause anemia and it may respond to reduction of immunosuppression. Recipients of solid-organ transplants do not mount a significant increase in erythropoietin in response to anemia. In conclusion, though there are no data on the response of anemia to erythropoietin in liver transplant recipients, it appears to benefit other solid-organ-transplant recipients with anemia. (Liver Transpl 2004;10:165–173.)

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