• pediatric liver transplantation;
  • immunosuppression;
  • post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease;
  • Epstein–Barr virus


Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)-associated post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) in pediatric liver transplant recipients is associated with a high mortality (up to 60%) and the younger age groups, who are predominantly EBV-naïve, are at highest risk for development of this disease. The aim of this study is to assess, in this high-risk group, patient outcome and graft loss to rejection when complete withdrawal of immunosuppressive agents (IMS) is instituted as the mainstay of treatment in addition to the use of standard therapy. A retrospective analysis of 335 pediatric patients whose liver transplants were performed by our team between September 1988 and September 2002, was carried out through review of computer records, database and patient charts. Fifty patients developed either EBV or PTLD; 80% were ≤2 yr of age. Of these 50 patients, 19 had a positive tissue diagnosis for PTLD and 31 were diagnosed with EBV infection, 14 of whom had positive tissue for EBV. Fifty-eight percent of patients who developed PTLD and 51.6% of patients with EBV received antibody for induction or treatment of rejection prior to onset of disease. Forty-six patients (92%) received post-transplant antiviral prophylaxis with ganciclovir or acyclovir. Antiviral treatment included ganciclovir in 76%, acyclovir in 20% and Cytogam (in addition to one of the former agents) in 44%. In those with PTLD, treatment included chemotherapy (n = 1), Rituximab (n = 2), and ocular radiation (n = 1). IMS was stopped in all patients with PTLD and in 19 with EBV infection and was held as long as there was no allograft rejection. Eight patients have remained off IMS for a mean of 1535.5 ± 623 days. Of the 21 patients who were restarted on IMS for acute rejection, 18 responded to steroids and/or reinstitution of low-dose calcineurin inhibitors. The mean time to rejection while off IMS in this group was 107.43 ± 140 days (range: 7–476). Two patients were re-transplanted for chronic rejection; one had chronic rejection that existed prior to discontinuing IMS. The mortality rate in our series was 31.6% in those with PTLD and 6% in those with EBV disease. The cause of death was related to PTLD or sepsis in all cases; no deaths were due to graft loss from acute or chronic rejection. PTLD is associated with high mortality in the pediatric population. Based on this report, we advocate aggressive management of PTLD that is composed of early cessation of IMS, the use of antiviral therapy, and chemotherapy when indicated. Episodes of rejection that occur after stopping IMS can be successfully treated with standard therapy without graft loss to acute rejection.