Review article: hepatitis B and liver transplantation


Dr D. Mutimer, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Liver & Hepatobiliary Unit, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TH, UK


Liver transplantation is an excellent treatment for hepatitis B virus infected patients who have acute or chronic liver failure and/or primary liver cancer. Advances in antiviral prophylaxis prevent clinically significant graft re-infection for the majority of patients. Graft and patient survival has improved significantly during the past decade, and results of transplantation for hepatitis B virus are now superior to those achieved for most other indications. In particular, the availability of lamivudine and adefovir have transformed outcome.

The addition of lamivudine to passive immunoprophylaxis with hepatitis B virus immunoglobulin prevents re-infection in most cases. Adefovir should be added to this combination when the patient develops lamivudine resistance before transplantation. The significance of serum hepatitis B virus DNA positivity in the absence of circulating hepatitis B surface antigen is uncertain. Hepatitis B virus infection of the graft can be observed when prophylaxis is inadequate, when the donor liver contains latent hepatitis B virus infection (so-called de novo infection from the hepatitis B virus core antibody positive donor), and when the donor is exposed to third party infection (sexual or nosocomial transmission).

Established hepatitis B virus graft infection is a good indication for combination nucleoside analogue therapy. Combination therapy can achieve sustained suppression of viral replication, and hepatitis B e antigen and hepatitis B surface antigen clearance can also be observed.