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Transplantation. 2001 Mar 15;71(5):664-8.

De novo hepatitis with autoimmune antibodies and atypical histology: a rare cause of late graft dysfunction after pediatric liver transplantation.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.



Late graft dysfunction after orthotopic liver transplantation is commonly due to chronic rejection, recurrence of primary disease, sepsis, lympho-proliferative disease, or vascular or biliary complications. Herein we describe a subset of pediatric liver transplant patients in whom late graft dysfunction was associated with autoimmune markers, bile ductular proliferation, and portal infiltrates, which progress to fibrosis. This subset of patients has not been previously described.


Six of the 115 children followed for greater than 5 years after transplantation developed this unusual form of graft dysfunction. All children were on a low-dose single immunosuppressive therapy (mean trough cyclosporine concentration 89 microg/L) and had been tapered off steroids for a median duration of 1.5 year. Liver biopsies were performed in all children to evaluate the graft dysfunction, and the histologic findings were interpreted by an experienced hepato-pathologist. All patients were tested for antibodies to hepatitis C virus, hepatitis B surface antigen, and IgM antibodies to hepatitis A. Smooth muscle antibody, antinuclear antibody, and antibody to liver/kidney microsome type 1 were sought by indirect immunofluorescence. International Autoimmune Hepatitis Group scores were calculated. All patients underwent ultrasonography with doppler studies at the onset of graft dysfunction. Three patients with marked bile duct proliferation on histology had cholangiograms.


Histology in all patients showed mononuclear cell infiltrates in the portal area with interface hepatitis, portal fibrosis, and ductular proliferation without duct damage or loss. All six patients had positive antinuclear antibody or smooth muscle antibody titers. Viral studies for hepatitis A, B, and C were negative in all patients. On the International Autoimmune Hepatitis Group scoring system, five patients had probable autoimmune hepatitis (score of 10-15) and one had definite autoimmune hepatitis (score > 15) at the onset of graft dysfunction. All were treated with azathioprine and prednisone similar to treatment for autoimmune hepatitis. However, despite aggressive treatment, four patients developed bridging portal fibrosis resulting in graft loss in two patients.


This clinical constellation is associated with worse outcome then that previously described for pediatric patients with posttransplantation de novo autoimmune hepatitis. Further studies are needed to find an optimal treatment regimen for these patients.

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