Fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis in renal transplant recipients with hepatitis C virus infection



Fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis (FCH) has been described as a specific manifestation of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in liver allograft recipients characterized by a rapid progression to liver failure. Only sporadic cases have been reported in other immunocompromised groups infected with HBV and in a few transplant recipients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We present the occurrence of FCH in 4 HCV-infected renal transplant recipients within a series of 73 renal transplant recipients with HCV infection followed up closely serologically and with consecutive liver biopsies. All 4 patients received the triple-immunosuppressive regimen (azathioprine, cyclosporine A, methylprednisolone). The interval from transplantation to the appearance of liver dysfunction was 1 to 4 months and to histological diagnosis, 3 to 11 months. The biochemical profile was analogous to a progressive cholestatic syndrome in 3 patients, whereas the fourth patient had only slightly increased alanine aminotransferase and γ-glutamyl transferase (γGT) levels. Liver histological examination showed the characteristic pattern of FCH in 2 patients, whereas the other 2 patients had changes compatible with an early stage. All patients were anti-HCV negative at the time of transplantation, whereas 2 patients, 1 with incomplete and 1with complete histological FCH features, seroconverted after 3 and 31 months, respectively. The patients were HCV RNA positive at the time of the first liver biopsy and showed high serum HCV RNA levels (14 to 58 × 106 Eq/mL, branched DNA). HCV genotype was 1b in 3 patients and 3a in 1 patient. After histological diagnosis, immunosuppression was drastically reduced. Two patients died of sepsis and liver failure 16 and 18 months posttransplantation, whereas the seroconverted patients showed marked improvement of their liver disease, which was histologically verified in 1 patient. In conclusion, FCH can occur in HCV-infected renal transplant recipients. It seems to develop as a complication of a recent HCV infection during the period of maximal immunosuppression and is associated with high HCV viremia levels. There are indications that drastic reduction of immunosuppression may have a beneficial effect on the outcome of the disease.