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A possible role of ursodeoxycholic acid in liver transplantation.

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  • 1Dept. of Surgery, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.


There are many different causes of graft dysfunction and cholestasis after liver transplantation. These include non-primary function, preservation and reperfusion injury, acute rejection, artery thrombosis, drug toxicity, bile leakage, and bile duct stenosis. Medication with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has beneficial effects in different cholestatic conditions. The initial rationale for its use after liver transplantation was to alter the bile acid pool to a more atoxic composition, as liver transplantation can be associated with cholestasis and can stimulate the initial bile production. We have consecutively treated 41 patients with primary graft function with UDCA. During the first postoperative month, 17% of the UDCA treated patients had an episode of acute rejection compared with 75% of a historical control group of 8 patients. The results suggest that adjuvant treatment with UDCA reduces acute liver graft rejection. This has to be confirmed by controlled prospective trials; one is presently being carried out in the Nordic countries. Several studies have indicated an immunomodulating capacity of this bile acid and we have recently reported our results from a heart transplant model in the rat, where treatment with UDCA prolonged graft survival. Improvement in surgical technique and postoperative care as well as immunosuppressive treatment has improved the results of liver transplantation. Acute rejection is nowadays a dominating problem after liver transplantation and the inclusion of UDCA may reduce morbidity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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