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Abstract

To determine the frequency, risk factors, and consequences of recurrent autoimmune hepatitis after liver transplantation, 41 patients with type 1 disease were monitored after surgery in accordance with a surveillance protocol. Tacrolimus or cyclosporine plus prednisone were administered to each patient, and liver biopsy examinations were performed at least annually according to protocol. Corticosteroid therapy was ultimately discontinued in only 2 patients. Recurrent disease was defined as the presence of lymphoplasmacytic infiltrates in liver tissue in the absence of other causes of allograft dysfunction. Autoimmune hepatitis recurred in 7 patients (17%), and the mean time to recurrence was 4.6 ± 1 years. Recurrence was asymptomatic in 4 of 7 patients and detected only by surveillance liver biopsy assessment in 2 patients. Histological changes were mild, and there was no progression to cirrhosis during 4.9 ± 0.9 years of observation. Five-year patient (86% v 82%; P = .9) and graft (86% v 67%; P = .5) survival rates were not statistically different between patients with and without recurrent disease. HLA-DR3 or HLA-DR4 occurred more commonly in patients with than without recurrence (100% v 40%; P = .008) and healthy subjects (100% v 49%; P = .01). Recurrent disease was unrelated to donor HLA status. In conclusion, recurrence after transplantation for type 1 autoimmune hepatitis is common. Its mild manifestations and favorable prognosis may reflect early detection by a surveillance protocol and/or continuous corticosteroid treatment. HLA-DR3- or HLA-DR4-positive recipients are at risk for recurrence regardless of donor HLA status.