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Abstract

The natural history of clinically compensated hepatitis C virus (HCV) cirrhosis after liver transplantation is unknown. This information is relevant to transplant centers to improve the management of these patients and decide the optimal timing for retransplantation. The aims of the study were (1) to describe the natural history of patients with HCV-cirrhosis transplants in a center with annual liver biopsies, and (2) to determine predictors for clinical decompensation, retransplantation, and mortality rates. A total of 49 patients with HCV-graft cirrhosis, 39 clinically compensated at histologic diagnosis of cirrhosis (post–liver transplantation cirrhosis) were included and followed up for 1 year (15 days-3.5 years). All patients tested were infected with genotype 1b. Predictive variables included histologic activity index (HAI) at post–liver transplantation cirrhosis, liver function tests, age, sex, and maintenance immunosuppression. Eighteen of 39 patients developed at least 1 episode of decompensation after a median of 7.8 months (4 days-2.6 years; 93% ascites). The cumulative probability of decompensation was 8%, 17%, and 42% at 1, 6, and 12 months, respectively. Graft and patient survival rates were 100%, 85%, and 71% and 100%, 92%, and 74% at 1, 6, and 12 months, respectively. Patient survival rates dropped significantly once decompensation developed (93%, 61%, and 41% at 1, 6, and 12 months, respectively). Variables associated with decompensation, retransplantation, and mortality rate included a high Child-Pugh score (>A), low levels of albumin at post–liver transplantation cirrhosis, and a short interval between liver transplantation and post–liver transplantation cirrhosis. The natural history of clinically compensated HCV-graft cirrhosis is shortened when compared with immunocompetent patients. If retransplantation is considered, it should be performed promptly once decompensation develops.