Management of recurrent hepatitis C after liver transplantation


Andrew K. Burroughs Liver Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Medicine, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London NW3 2QG, UK. E-mail:


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) reinfection is almost universal in patients transplanted for HCV-related cirrhosis. The medium-term survival after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is similar to other transplanted patients, but the long-term survival remains uncertain. The prevention and an effective treatment of progressive liver disease are the primary aims in HCV recurrence. Interferon and ribavirin, as monotherapy or in combination, have been tried to treat or prevent HCV recurrence. Preliminary studies suggest a better chance of initial HCV clearance and better results in preventing HCV recurrence with combination therapy. IFN or ribavirin, as monotherapy, may normalize liver enzymes, but only gives rise to a transient virological response, without histological improvement. Combination IFN and ribavirin may be able to prevent progression of HCV-related graft disease, but indications and duration of treatment need further evaluation.

No clear association between type and dose of immunosuppressive and outcome of post-transplant HCV recurrence has been found. Strategies to minimize the effects of immunosuppressive drugs include dose reduction of all agents and the selective discontinuation of individual agents. Initial immunosuppression with a single drug may inhibit or delay the severe fibrosis, and further investigation with a single immunosuppressive regimen to evaluate the outcome of recurrent hepatitis C should be performed. The recent evidence that mycophenolate may have an antiviral effect needs a clinical confirmation.

Retransplantation survival is better with early retransplantation, and for indications not directly related to viral recurrence.