Liver transplantation and HBsAg-positive postnecrotic cirrhosis: adequate immunoprophylaxis and delta virus co-infection as the significant determinants of long-term prognosis

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The place of liver transplantation in hepatitis B viral (HBV)-related diseases remains controversial because of the high rate of reinfection. The aim of this study was to define the determinants of long-term prognosis after transplantation.


Fifty-eight patients were transplanted during the period February 1984-September 1996. Six patients died during the early (<3 months) posttransplant period from causes unrelated to HBV infection. All 52 long-term (>3 months) survivors were evaluated in relation to the mode of presentation, viral replication at time of transplantation, absence of hepatocellular cancer at time of transplantation and use of adequate immunoprophylaxis (IP). Adequate immunoprophylaxis, defined as maintenance of anti-HBs levels over 100 mUI/ml, was introduced in December 1989. Intention-to-treat IP analysis compared patients transplanted before and after this date. The median follow-up was 74 months (range 4 to 131). Forty-seven patients (90%) had a minimal follow-up of 3 years.


Five-year actuarial survival rates of 58 patients and of 52 long-term survivors were 72±6% and 80±6%, respectively. Univariate analysis showed that delta co-infection (n=25) significantly improved survival (p<0.001) [96±4% vs 63±10% in HBV patients (n=27) at 5 years] as did absence of hepatocellular cancer (n=36) (p=0.020) [89±5% vs 61±12% in 16 non-cancer patients]. IP, however, significantly influenced 5-year survival in the HBV-patient group (n=17) (p=0.001) [85±10% vs 30±14% in 10 patients without IP). Multivariate analysis selected delta co-infection (p=0.002) and IP (p=0.01) as the significant determinants of prognosis independently influencing survival. Uni- and multivariate analyses showed that survival without reinfection was significantly influenced by IP (p=0.002) [73±8% (n=31) versus 33±12% in 15 non-treated patients).


Delta virus co-infection and immunoprophylaxis are the most important prognostic factors after transplantation for postnecrotic HBsAg-positive cirrhosis. Transplantation can be proposed as a therapeutic tool only if life-long adequate adjuvant therapy can be achieved. Under this condition good results can even be obtained if there is viral replication at the time of transplantation.

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