Aim: Recurrent hepatitis C virus (HCV) is universal following liver transplantation. Patients are often treated with interferon and ribavirin in an attempt to eradicate the virus. We describe our experience with 38 patients with recurrent HCV from a single liver transplant program.
Methods: Between October 2000 and November 2001, 38 patients with recurrent HCV were treated with interferon alpha 2b 3 million units three times a week and ribavirin 1000–1200 mg per day. HCV RNA and liver biopsies were performed before treatment at the end of treatment (EOT), and 6 months after EOT in patients who were HCV RNA negative at EOT.
Results: There were 29 males and nine females. Median age was 49 years. In total, 34 patients were genotype 1 and two each were genotype 3 and 4. Six patients received HCV positive donors and 24 patients (63%) completed treatment. The most common indication for discontinuation of treatment was severe fatigue in 14 patients (37%). On intention to treat analysis, a sustained biochemical and virological response occurred in 10 patients (26%). Unchanged or improved fibrosis scores were present in 37% of patients, of whom 71% were non-responders to therapy.
Conclusions: Interferon alpha 2b and ribavirin were poorly tolerated in this series of recurrent HCV patients, with sustained HCV eradication occurring in only 26% of patients. However, the majority of non-responders demonstrated unchanged or improved fibrosis scores, suggesting that a subset of patients may benefit from maintenance antiviral therapy to prevent the development of cirrhosis.