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Hepatitis B-associated liver cirrhosis as an indication for liver transplantation.

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Division of Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Academic Hospital Groningen, The Netherlands.


Fourteen HBsAg-positive patients received a liver transplant in Groningen. Two were HBeAg-positive and 12 HBeAg-negative. No anti-HBs immunoglobulin was given at the time. Both HBeAg-positive and 9 of 12 of the HBeAg-negative patients became HBsAg-positive again after transplantation. Virus titers were tested in eight patients. Two HBeAg-negative patients were HBV-DNA-negative at transplantation and are still HBV-DNA-negative one-and-half-years after transplantation, both by the branched DNA hybridization technique and by PCR (cut-off values 0.7 x 10(6) and 10(3) HBV genomes/ml, respectively). One patient who had a low HBV-DNA titer at transplantation remained PCR-positive thereafter, but became HBsAg-negative. All other patients were HBV-DNA-positive and had a recurrence that rapidly led to high HBV titers. The liver histology was characterized by fibrosis and cirrhosis, centrilobular cholestasis and high expression of HBsAg and HBcAg, but with little inflammatory infiltrate. We conclude from these results that without anti-HBs immunoglobulin prophylaxis there is a high rate of HBV recurrence after transplantation. The current policy is that patients who test negative in the HBV-DNA dot-blot assay (< 10(7) genomes/ml) are transplantation candidates and are treated with high-dose anti-HBs immunoglobulin after transplantation. HBV-DNA-positive patients (> 10(7) genomes/ml) remain poor candidates for liver transplantation, even with anti-HBs immunoprophylaxis.

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