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J Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Oct;37(4):344-7.

Graft failure from severe recurrent primary sclerosing cholangitis following orthotopic liver transplantation.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Oregon Health Sciences university and Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, Oregon 97207, USA.


Speculation that primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) may recur in the transplanted liver is based on the relative increase in frequency of biliary abnormalities and histologic evidence of periportal fibrosis without other causes. A recent study demonstrated almost 9% of patients undergoing liver transplantation (OLT) for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) develop recurrent sclerosing cholangitis although the patient and graft survival is not different from those in whom recurrence does not develop. Most reports of PSC recurrence post-OLT estimate rates of 1% to 14%, but to date, no center has reported rapidly progressive fibro-obliterative cholangitis leading to graft failure.


DV was a 39-year-old white man with ulcerative colitis, since age 21, who developed jaundice and pruritus in 1992. ERCP and liver biopsy were consistent with PSC, and he developed thrombocytopenia and bleeding esophageal varices. He underwent an uneventful OLT in May 1994 with an ABO-compatible organ and normal ischemic times. There was no evidence of postoperative cytomegalovirus infection, hepatic artery thrombosis, or rejection. In October 1994, mild abnormalities of liver function tests (LFTs) led to liver biopsy that revealed inflammatory infiltrate in triad with spillover into lobules and mild periportal fibrosis. LFTs normalized without any treatment, but in February 1995 repeat liver biopsy for increased LFTs revealed moderate periportal fibrosis with inflammatory cells in triads and lobules. Viral shell and CMV titers were negative. No evidence of infectious etiology or rejection was noted. The patient was started on ursodeoxycholic acid at that time and percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTC) revealed marked narrowing of the intrahepatic ducts. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) revealed esophageal varices. Hepatic arteriogram and Doppler ultrasound were negative. He developed progressive graft failure, and died at home while awaiting re-transplant.


Although most series report mild recurrence of PSC following OLT, this case illustrates that early, severe recurrence of PSC may occur, leading to graft failure and need for re-transplantation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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