Corticosteroid-free immunosuppression in liver transplantation: a meta-analysis and meta-regression of outcomes


George Sgourakis MD, PhD, 11 Mantzarou str., Neo Psychiko, 15451, Athens, Greece. Tel.: + 30-210-6716015; fax: +30-210-6716015; e-mail:


To examine the impact of steroid withdrawal from the immunosuppression protocols in liver transplantation. The electronic databases Medline, Embase, Pubmed and the Cochrane Library were searched. Meta-analysis pooled the effects of outcomes of a total of 2590 patients enrolled into 21 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), using classic and modern meta-analytic methods. Meta-analysis of RCTs addressing patients transplanted for any indication showed no differences between corticosteroid-free immunosuppression and steroid-based protocols in most of the analyzed outcomes. More importantly, steroid-free cohorts appeared to benefit in terms of de novo diabetes mellitus development [R.R = 1.86 (1.43, 2.41)], Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection [R.R = 1.47 (0.99, 2.17)], cholesterol levels [WMD = 19.71 (13.7, 25.7)], the number of patients that received the allocated treatment [O.R = 1.55 (1.17, 2.05)], severe acute rejection [R.R = 1.71 (1.14, 2.54)] and overall acute rejection [R.R = 1.31 (1.09, 1.58)] (when steroids were replaced in the steroid-free arm). Taking RCTs into account independently when steroids were not replaced, overall acute rejection was favoring the steroid-based arm [R.R = 0.75 (0.58, 0.98)]. Studies addressing exclusively transplanted HCV patients demonstrated a significant advantage of steroid-free protocols considering HCV recurrence [R.R = 1.15 (1.01, 1.13)], acute graft hepatitis [O.R = 3.15 (1.18, 8.40)], and treatment failure [O.R = 1.87 (1.33, 2.63)]. No unfavorable effects were observed after steroid withdrawal during short-term follow-up. On the contrary, significant advantages were documented.