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Transplantation. 1995 Nov 15;60(9):1057-60.

Metabolic complications after liver transplantation. Diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and obesity.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver 80262, USA.


We retrospectively studied the incidence of diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and obesity in 123 consecutive adult liver transplant recipients (61 men and 62 women) who were alive at least 1 year after transplantation. We also studied the change in these metabolic complications in 61 patients who subsequently were able to be tapered to 5 mg prednisone per day. One year after transplantation--a point at which almost all patients were on maintenance immunosuppression and had stable graft function--the incidence of diabetes was 13% and hypertension was 69.1%. The overall incidence of hypercholesterolemia (serum cholesterol > 240 ng/ml) was 31% and was more frequent in women than in men (38.7% vs. 23.0%, P < 0.06). The incidence of obesity at 1 year was 41.9% in women and 39.3% in men. With tapering of prednisone from 10 mg to 5 mg per day in 61 patients, the mean serum cholesterol decreased from 224.6 +/- 65.2 mg/dl to 203.3 +/- 65.5 mg/dl, P < 0.005. With steroid tapering, 8 patients were able to discontinue antihypertensive medications and 4 were able to discontinue insulin treatment for diabetes. Five patients became obese during the steroid-tapering period. No patient developed irreversible rejection with steroid tapering and no immunologic graft losses occurred more than a year after transplantation. Nine patients who lived a year subsequently died. Of these, 7 patients were diabetic and 2 died of cardiac disease. We conclude that metabolic complications such as diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia are common later after liver transplantation and that these may contribute to patient morbidity and mortality. In addition, we conclude steroid tapering to 5 mg/day does not lead to graft loss and may decrease the incidence and severity of late metabolic complications.

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