Long-term follow-up after recurrence of primary biliary cirrhosis after liver transplantation in 100 patients


Corresponding author: Dietmar A. Jacob, Department of General, Visceral and Transplantation Surgery, Humboldt University of Berlin, Charité Virchow Clinic, Augustenburger Platz 1, 13353 Berlin, Germany.
Tel.: +49 30 450652367; fax: +49 30 450552900;
e-mail: dietmar.jacob@charite.de


Abstract: Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is the only effective curative therapy for end-stage primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Survival after OLT is excellent, although recent data have shown a recurrence rate of PBC of up to 32% after transplantation. The aim of this study is to investigate the course after disease recurrence, particularly with regard to liver function and survival in a long-term follow-up. Between April 1989 and April 2003, 1553 liver transplantations were performed in 1415 patients at the Charité, Virchow Clinic. Protocol liver biopsies were taken after one, three, five, seven, 10 and 13 yr. One hundred (7%) patients suffered from histologically proven PBC. Primary immunosuppression consisted of cyclosporine (n=54) or tacrolimus (Tac) (n=46). Immediately after OLT, all patients received ursodeoxycholic acid. Corticosteroids were withdrawn three to six months after OLT. The median age of the 85 women and 15 men was 55 yr (range 25–66 yr). The median follow-up after liver transplantation was 118 months (range 16–187 months) and after recurrence 30 months (range 4–79 months). Actuarial patient survival after five, 10 and 15 yr was 87, 84 and 82% respectively. Ten patients (10%) died after a median survival time of 32 months. Two of these patients developed organ dysfunction owing to recurrence of PBC. Histological recurrence was found in 14 patients (14%) after a median time of 61 months (range 36–122 months). Patients with Tac immunosuppression developed PBC recurrence more often (p<0.05) and also earlier (p<0.05). Fifty-seven patients developed an acute rejection and two patients a chronic rejection episode. Liver function did not alter within the first five yr after histologically proven PBC recurrence. Multivariate analysis of the investigated patients showed that the recipient's age and Tac immunosuppression were significant risk factors for PBC recurrence. Long-term follow-up of up to 15 yr after liver transplantation, owing to PBC, in addition to maintenance of liver function, shows excellent organ and patient survival rates. Although protocol liver biopsies revealed histological recurrence in 14 (14%) patients, only two patients developed graft dysfunction. Tac-treated patients showed more frequently and also earlier histologically proven PBC recurrence; however, in our population we could not observe an impact on graft dysfunction and patient's survival.