Liver transplantation for autoimmune hepatitis: A long-term pathologic study



Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) after liver transplantation (LT) may recur and is difficult to diagnose. Our aims were to define the histopathology of and factors related to AIH recurrence. Fourteen of 475 patients received LT for AIH; 2 died perioperatively. Liver specimens (native and post-LT biopsies) from 12 other patients were reviewed and correlated with pre- and post-LT clinical course and outcome. Recurrent AIH was seen in 5 of 12 patients, 35 to 280 days post-LT as lobular hepatitis with acidophil bodies and lymphoplasmacytic infiltrate. Portal/interface hepatitis was seen with disease progression and 2 of 5 patients developed cirrhosis. Of 7 nonrecurrent patients, 1 had acquired hepatitis C with lobular/portal hepatitis and none developed cirrhosis. Histology suggestive of overlap syndrome was seen in 3 of 12 native livers with no effect on post-LT course or pathology. High-grade necroinflammation was present in native livers at LT in 5 of 5 cases with recurrent AIH and in 1 of 7 without recurrence (P < .01). Pre-LT disease duration, donor/recipient gender distribution, HLA studies, and rejection episodes did not correlate with AIH recurrence. We conclude that (1) recurrent AIH is not uncommon and was seen in 42% of patients with lymphoplasmacytic lobular, portal, and interface hepatitis; (2) acidophil bodies with lymphoplasmacytic cells are seen in early recurrent AIH; (3) recurrent AIH appears at variable time periods post-LT, and the progression is slow; and (4) high-grade inflammation in native liver at LT is a strong predictor of recurrent AIH.