Increasing applicability of liver transplantation for patients with hepatitis B–related liver disease



Liver transplantation in patients with hepatitis B has been under discussion for 20 years because of inferior results without reinfection prophylaxis; therefore, we analyzed our overall experience with liver transplantation in hepatitis B patients with immunoprophylaxis, particularly the influence of the available antiviral treatment in different periods. From 1988 to 2000, 228 liver transplants in 206 hepatitis B patients were performed. Indications were acute liver failure (10%), hepatitis B virus (HBV) cirrhosis alone (67%) or with hepatitis D virus (HDV) (13%), or hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection (7%). All patients received long-term immunoprophylaxis (anti-HBs > 100 U/L). HBV DNA–positive patients were treated before and after surgery with famciclovir or lamivudine since 1993 and 1996, respectively. Since 1993, antivirals also were used for HBV reinfection. The 1-, 5-, and 10-year patient survival rates were 91%, 81%, and 73%. In patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (60% 5-year survival, P < .01) or HBV reinfection (69% 5-year survival, P < .01) survival was significantly impaired. Those with HDV or HCV coinfection had a slightly better survival than with HBV monoinfection (P > .05, not significant). Preoperative positive HBV DNA (hybridization-assay) test results were associated with a slightly impaired patient survival (78% 5-year survival, P > .05, not significant versus DNA-negative). Preoperative positive hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) predicted significantly worse survival (P < .05 versus negative HBeAg). Graft loss caused by reinfection was most frequent before the availability of antiviral drugs. Two-year patient survival increased from 85% in era I (1988-1993) to 94% in era III (1997-2000, P < .05). The 2-year recurrence rates in these 2 periods were 42% and 8% (P < .05). In conclusion, excellent long-term results can be achieved in hepatitis B patients after liver transplantation with modern strategies, and survival rates are similar to other indications. Based on our experience, hepatitis B patients, including those with active viral replication, should not be excluded from liver transplantation.