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Keywords:

  • Black box;
  • graft failure;
  • hepatic artery thrombosis;
  • patient death;
  • portal vein thrombosis;
  • rapamycin;
  • renal failure

We studied whether the use of sirolimus with reduced-dose tacrolimus, as compared to standard-dose tacrolimus, after liver transplantation is safe, tolerated and efficacious. In an international multicenter, open-label, active-controlled randomized trial (2000–2003), adult primary liver transplant recipients (n = 222) were randomly assigned immediately after transplantation to conventional-dose tacrolimus (trough: 7–15 ng/mL) or sirolimus (loading dose: 15 mg, initial dose: 5 mg titrated to a trough of 4–11 ng/mL) and reduced-dose tacrolimus (trough: 3–7 ng/mL). The study was terminated after 21 months due to imbalance in adverse events. The 24-month cumulative incidence of graft loss (26.4% vs. 12.5%, p = 0.009) and patient death (20% vs. 8%, p = 0.010) was higher in subjects receiving sirolimus. A numerically higher rate of hepatic artery thrombosis/portal vein thrombosis was observed in the sirolimus arm (8% vs. 3%, p = 0.065). The incidence of sepsis was higher in the sirolimus arm (20.4% vs. 7.2%, p = 0.006). Rates of acute cellular rejection were similar between the two groups. Early use of sirolimus using a loading dose followed by maintenance doses and reduced-dose tacrolimus in de novo liver transplant recipients is associated with higher rates of graft loss, death and sepsis when compared to the use of conventional-dose tacrolimus alone.