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Transplantation. 2012 Aug 27;94(4):417-23. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e3182584854.

Surgical management of gastrointestinal posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorders in liver transplant recipients.

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  • 1Starzl Transplantation Institute, Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3442, USA.



Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) is a well-established complication of immunosuppression. The involvement of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract occurs in 25% of all cases of PTLD. Fortunately, surgical intervention is seldom required. We report our experience of surgical treatment of complicated GI-PTLD after liver transplantation (LTx).


A retrospective analysis of 5677 adult patients who underwent LTx between 1983 and 2009 was conducted.


Thirty-six patients presented with GI-PTLD. Sixteen patients presented with complications associated with GI-PTLD requiring emergency surgery. The average (SD) time from LTx to GI surgery was 7.9 (5.8) years (range, 4 months to 17 years). Indications for surgical intervention were small bowel obstruction (seven cases), perforation (six cases), and GI bleeding (three cases). Most GI-PTLD occurred in the small bowel or right colon (81%). In addition to the surgery, treatment of PTLD consisted of reduction of immunosuppression, use of rituximab (n=10), and systemic chemotherapy (n=7). Overall mortality was 69%, with most of the deaths occurring within 8 months after emergency laparotomy. GI bleeding and perforation were associated with higher mortality (>66%). Despite higher early mortality in the surgical group, no differences on long-term outcome were observed between patients with GI-PTLD who required surgery and those who did not (P=0.371).


In summary, GI-PTLD requiring surgical intervention is an extremely rare condition with high early mortality. Most of the cases are monoclonal, present a late onset, and involve the lower GI tract. Intestinal obstruction is the main indication for surgical intervention and is associated with better prognosis.

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