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Transplantation. 2008 Dec 27;86(12):1666-71. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e31818fe505.

A novel immunosuppressive strategy combined with preemptive antiviral therapy improves the eighteen-month mortality in HCV recipients transplanted with aged livers.

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Department of Liver Transplantation, General Surgery and Liver Transplantation Unit, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Pisana, Cisanello Hospital, Pisa, Italy.



Donor's age and immunosuppression influence the severity of hepatitis C virus (HCV) recurrence. We analyzed the 18-month mortality in 302 consecutive HCV recipients, divided into three groups, with homogeneous immunosuppression and preemptive antiviral therapy in the last group.


Group 1: one hundred thirty-three patients (1996-2000) mainly received a triple therapy (steroids- cyclosporine A [CyA]-azathioprine); first line treatment of biopsy-proven acute rejection (BPAR) was with steroid boluses; second-line with OKT3. Group 2: ninety-one patients (2001-2003) mainly received a double therapy (steroids-CyA) and induction with anti-CD25 antibody; first-line BPAR treatment was increased dose/switch of the calcineurin inhibitor; second-line steroid boluses; third-line extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP). Group 3: seventy-eight patients (2004-June 2006) mainly received a monotherapy (CyA) associated with ECP and induction with anti-CD25 antibody; first-line BPAR treatment was increased dose/switch of calcineurin inhibitor with increased ECP frequency, second-line steroid boluses, and third-line retransplantation.


Median donor's age increased from 54 (13-84) years in group 1 to 60 (10-93) years in group 2 and 66 (17-84) years in group 3 (P<0.001). Overall mortality in groups 1, 2, and 3 decreased from 28.6% to 22% and 10.2% respectively (P = 0.003); HCV-related mortality from 7.5% and 12.1% to 1.3%, respectively (P = 0.029). BPAR were 33.8% in group 1 and 9.0% in group 3. Applicability of the preemptive antiviral therapy in group 3 was 69.2%. Sustained viral clearance occurred in 38.9% of 36 patients who completed the protocol. At multivariate analysis, a single-drug immunosuppressive regimen was the only variable independently associated with survival (P=0.05).


Low and steady immunosuppression combined with preemptive antiviral therapy significantly improved the short-term mortality of HCV recipients transplanted with aged organs. Prolonged follow-up will assess whether this benefit is maintained in the long run.

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