Successful withdrawal of prednisone after adult liver transplantation for autoimmune hepatitis



Corticosteroid withdrawal after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) represents an attractive therapeutic option for ameliorating post-OLT metabolic complications, although several reports suggest patients who undergo transplantation for autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) may have a greater incidence of acute and chronic rejection when withdrawn from corticosteroid therapy. The aim of this study is to evaluate the success of corticosteroid withdrawal in patients with AIH after OLT. Twenty-six patients underwent successful OLT for AIH. In 21 of these patients, stable maintenance immunosuppression consisted of cyclosporine (CSA) and prednisone (n = 20) or tacrolimus (TAC) and prednisone (n = 1). In this group, a trial of prednisone withdrawal was initiated when patients were 6 months or more post-OLT, with normal liver function, and receiving an average prednisone dosage of 10 mg/d. Five additional patients treated with either TAC (n = 4) or CSA (n = 1) plus mycophenolate mofetil underwent a 14-day taper of prednisone. Overall, 17 of 25 patients (68%) were successfully withdrawn from corticosteroids, with a mean follow-up of 22 months (range, 1 to 34 months). Of the remaining 8 patients, 5 patients received a lower dosage of prednisone or required prednisone to control inflammatory bowel disease. Only 3 patients remained dependent on prednisone to maintain stable liver allograft function. Withdrawal from 10 to 5 mg of prednisone (n = 21) resulted in four episodes of steroid-responsive and two episodes of steroid-resistant rejection in 3 patients, and 18 of 21 patients (86%) were rejection free. Withdrawal from 5 to 0 mg prednisone (n = 17) resulted in eight episodes of steroid-responsive and no episodes of steroid-resistant rejection in 4 patients; 13 of 17 patients (76%) were rejection free. Of the 5 patients in the 14-day prednisone-taper group, 3 patients had steroid-responsive rejection and 1 patient required OKT3. Seventeen of 21 patients (81%) with AIH were successfully withdrawn from corticosteroids. It is notable that corticosteroid withdrawal was associated with a reduction in serum cholesterol levels, decreased use of antihypertensive agents, and reduced need for insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents. We propose corticosteroid withdrawal should be attempted in patients with underlying AIH who undergo OLT because most will benefit without significantly jeopardizing the liver allograft.