The aim of this study was to review the clinical, serological and histopathological features of 20 patients who underwent orthotopic liver transplantation for hepatitis B virus (HBV) related liver disease in an attempt to identify factors which predict recurrence of HBV infection, pattern of disease and disease severity. Hepatitis B recurrence occurred in 11 patients (55%). Positive immunoperoxidase staining for HBsAg and HBcAg of the hepatectomy specimen were shown to have a sensitivity (82% and 64% respectively) and specificity (55% and 66%) in predicting recurrence. This was comparable to serological markers such as HBV DNA (36% sensitivity and 89% specificity). The staining for HBcAg in some cases was weak, focal and had a reticular pattern. Therefore, examination of multiple blocks with a high magnification was necessary to detect HBcAg staining. Negative staining of multiple sections for HBsAg and HBcAg were shown to have a good correlation with clearing of HBV infection (5 out of 6 patients). If recurrence occurred, the range of histological and clinical patterns of HBV recurrence was varied, with severe disease occurring in 5 patients. Neither pre-transplant serology nor hepatectomy immunoperoxidase staining characteristics were shown to be of value in predicting the pattern or the severity of disease once HBV recurrence had occurred.
This study indicates that lack of staining for HBV antigens on multiple sections of the native liver may predict a subgroup of HBsAg positive transplant patients who will not suffer from recurrent disease. Once disease did occur however, markers for severity of recurrence were not identified.