Abstract: Background: Steroid minimization regimens have become increasingly popular for kidney transplant recipients. We studied outcomes for liver transplant recipients with a regimen using rapid discontinuation of prednisone (RDP).
Results: The study group consisted of 83 recipients transplanted between June 2004 and January 2006. Immunosuppression consisted of tacrolimus, MMF, and two doses of basiliximab with six d of steroids. Patients with underlying autoimmune disorders (PSC, autoimmune hepatitis) were not included as they were maintained on steroids. The control group consisted of 83 recipients transplanted between January 2002 and May 2004. Immunosuppression consisted of tacrolimus, MMF and steroids, with no antibody induction. Mean MELD score at time of transplant was significantly higher in the steroid free group vs. the control group (28 vs. 23, p = 0.02); mean donor age was also higher (42 vs. 37 yr, p = 0.02). Other characteristics including recipient age, cold ischemic time, donor source, and cause of liver disease were similar (p = ns). Mean length of follow-up was 16.1 months in the RDP group and 32 months in the control group; a minimum of six months follow up was present for all patients. Patient and graft survival rates were not statistically different in the two groups (p = ns). Biopsy proven rejection was low in both groups and not significantly different (at one yr post-transplant 11% in the RDP group vs. 12% in control, p = 0.53). Based on protocol biopsy data, histologic recurrence of hepatitis C was demonstrated in 56% of the control group hepatitis C positive recipients vs. 39% in the RDP group (p = 0.05). There was a significantly lower incidence of post-transplant diabetes (PTDM) in the RDP vs. control group (at 6 months post-transplant 12% vs. 32%, p = 0.004).
Conclusions: Rapid discontinuation of prednisone in liver transplant recipients is not associated with an increased risk of rejection, and may be associated with lower morbidity, especially PTDM and hepatitis C recurrence.