Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ann Surg. 1997 Sep;226(3):356-65; discussion 365-8.

Recurrence-free long-term survival after liver transplantation for hepatitis B using interferon-alpha pretransplant and hepatitis B immune globulin posttransplant.

Author information

  • 1Department of Surgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



The authors determined whether pretransplant reduction of hepatitis B virus (HBV) load using alpha-interferon-2b (IFN) and passive immunoprophylaxis using hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIg) posttransplantation can prevent HBV recurrence in patients undergoing liver transplantation (LT) for HBV cirrhosis.


Liver transplantation in patients with HBV cirrhosis is associated with a high rate of recurrence and reduced survival. In patients with evidence of replicating virus (HBV-DNA or hepatitis B e antigen [HBeAg]-positive serum or both), recurrence is nearly universal. Passive immunoprophylaxis with HBIg alone is not effective in preventing HBV recurrence posttransplant, especially in patients with evidence of active viral replication pretransplant. Higher doses of HBIg posttransplant has reduced recurrence rates to 30% to 50%. Lamivudine, a nucleoside analogue that has shown early promise, also is associated with significant HBV recurrence. The authors report a reliable method of preventing viral recurrence in patients even with evidence for active HBV replication pretransplant.


Pretransplant patients with evidence of replicating HBV were given IFN starting at 1 million IU 3 times per week subcutaneously. This dose was increased to 2 and then 3 million IU 3 times per week when patient's side effects permitted and was maintained until the patient underwent a LT. All patients were tested every 4 weeks for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), HBeAg, and HBV-DNA. When patients became negative for HBeAg and HBV-DNA, they were listed for LT. Patients that were only HBsAg positive were listed immediately and received a LT without prior IFN treatment. Post-LT, all patients began receiving HBIg 2000 IU (10 mL) daily from days 1 to 20 and then weekly for the first 2 years. After 2 years, all patients received 2000 IU (10 mL) monthly. Additional HBIg immunoprophylaxis was given during intense immunosuppression for rejection. Posttransplant serum was tested for HBsAg, HBeAg, and HBV-DNA in all patients 1 week, 1 month, and every 3 months thereafter. Liver biopsies were done at least yearly and when liver enzymes were abnormal and were always tested for HBsAg and HBcAg by immunoperoxidase.


Thirteen patients with decompensated HBV cirrhosis were transplanted. Pretransplant, eight patients had evidence of active viral replication at the initial assessment (HBeAg or HBV-DNA-positive serum or both). All eight were successfully treated with IFN (median duration, 24 weeks; range, 8-53) and converted to a negative status before transplantation. Side effects from IFN were minimal and well tolerated, except in one patient who required 6 million IU to convert to a nonreplicating status. The five patients that were only HBsAg positive were not treated with IFN pretransplant. After surgery, HBIg given as described achieved consistently serum levels greater than 1000 IU/L. Twelve of the 13 patients are alive with normal liver function and without serologic evidence of HBV recurrence at a median follow-up of 32 months (range, 9-56 months). None have evidence of HBV recurrence as measured by serum HBsAg/HBeAg/HBV-DNA at recent follow-up. The sera of the seven longest survivors has tested negative for HBV-DNA using the polymerase chain reaction method. In addition, a liver biopsy was obtained in six of these patients, the results of which also tested negative for HBV-DNA using polymerase chain reaction. Liver biopsy specimens have been negative for the presence of HBsAg and HBcAg by immunoperoxidase staining in all 12 patients.


A reduction of viral load pretransplant with IFN and posttransplant HBIg prevents recurrence of hepatitis B and permits LT for HBV cirrhosis, even in patients with evidence of replicating virus. The IFN pretransplant was well tolerated, and the small frequent dosing of HBIg posttransplant did not cause side effects while achieving serum levels > 1000 IU/L.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk