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Transplant Proc. 2004 Jun;36(5):1449-54.

Should patients with chronic hepatitis C infection be transplanted?

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Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Transplantation, University of Texas Medical School-Houston, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection affects more than 170 million people throughout the world and 2 to 3 million Americans. End-stage liver disease secondary to chronic HCV infection is the most frequent indication for liver transplantation in this country. Currently, the gold standard for treatment for immunocompetent patients is a combination of peginterferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin for 6 to 12 months depending on the genotype. This treatment achieves a sustained virological response (SVR) in 54% to 61% of patients overall. Almost 50% of patients do not respond or have recurrences posttreatment and progress in over 10 to 20 years into chronic liver disease and its complications. Liver transplantation is the only therapeutic modality that impacts on quality of life and survival of these patients. However, recurrence of HCV in the new allograft is universal with accelerated progression to cirrhosis in 5 to 10 years. Response to treatment is usually low (20% to 30%), and associated with significant side effects and depression. A significant percentage of patients with recurrent HCV after transplantation require retransplantation to control the complications of end-stage liver disease. Other solid organ transplants recipients already HCV-positive, or infected at the time of transplantation from blood transfusions or an infected graft, develop accelerated, progressive liver disease facilitated by the adverse effects of immunosuppression in addition to HCV replication. To prevent morbidity, mortality, and high costs related to the consequences of HCV infection, all solid organ transplant candidates should be tested for HCV infection and treated appropriately with PEG-IFN and ribavirin prior to transplantation.

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