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Abstract

Patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection were not accepted for liver transplantation in Asia in the past because the hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) used to prevent post-transplantation recurrence was very expensive and it was generally believed that Asians with hepatitis B fared worse than Caucasians after liver transplantation. The availability of lamivudine has altered the indication of liver transplantation for these patients. Twenty-five Chinese patients with chronic HBV infection were given lamivudine as primary prophylaxis against HBV re-infection before transplantation. Five patients died within 40 days of transplantation. After a median follow-up period of 14 months (range, 5–39), 17 patients had lost serum HBsAg from 4 days to 27 months post transplantation, but it reappeared in three patients 4–12 months later. Antibody to HBsAg was detected periodically in the serum of 11 patients who had lost HBsAg. At the last follow-up, six patients were HBsAg-positive and HBV DNA was detected in only one of them. The indication for liver transplantation for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is not as strict as for patients with chronic HBV infection because the long-term survival is similar to that of non-hepatitis C patients, even though re-infection by HCV in the recipients is nearly universal. The main issue in the selection of patients with HCV for liver transplantation is therefore identification of criteria that can predict re-infection and development of cirrhosis. These include factors such as multiple episodes of rejection, use of OKT3, pre-transplant viral load and genotype, but reports are not consistent and so there are no well-defined selection criteria. The selection criteria for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma are now well defined. Many studies have confirmed that a tumour > 5 cm, and showing vascular invasion, and poor differentiation adversely affects survival. In practice, only patients with a tumour < 5 cm and Child’s C cirrhosis are accepted for liver transplantation. Transarterial oily chemoembolization and intralesional alcohol injection are used to control or down-stage the tumour while patients wait for a cadaveric liver graft.