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Keywords:

  • Hepatitis C Liver transplantation;
  • HCV-RNA;
  • Immunosuppression;
  • Antiviral therapy;
  • HCV recurrence

Abstract End-stage liver disease caused by chronic hepatitis C viral infection is one of the major indications for liver transplantation. However, evidence for ongoing viral replication can already be found days after surgery and may lead sequentially to lobular hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis, fibrosis and liver cirrhosis. In some patients, this evolution is remarkably fast, most probably enhanced by the immunosuppressive therapy. A minority of patients develop a clinical picture of progressive cholestatic liver disease with histological signs of chronic rejection, which may necessitate retransplantation. While the 1- and 5-year survival rates for all patients transplanted because of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-induced liver cirrhosis are satisfactory, severe complications of disease recurrence are nonetheless expected during the first and second decade after liver transplantation. Larger and preferably randomized studies are needed to investigate whether combination therapy with interferon and ribavirin, preferably initiated as soon as possible after liver transplantation, prevents the fast evolution to cirrhosis without the appearance of chronic rejection and the expected complications of recurrent end-stage HCV-induced liver disease. The final goal should be the inhibition of viral replication even before liver transplantation, but other antiviral strategies should probably be used to attain this goal in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. Although the recurrence of a hepatitis C infection and concomitant disease in the liver graft may cause substantial morbidity, end-stage liver disease and liver failure caused by a chronic hepatitis C infection remain good indications for liver transplantation.