Liver disease due to hepatitis C (HCV) is an increasingly frequent indication for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). The aim of the current study was to analyze the causes of graft loss following OLT for chronic hepatitis C and the longterm outcome following retransplantation in a large university program. Between January 1990 and December 1995, 1183 patients underwent primary OLT at our center. In 304 patients, HCV was diagnosed by seropositivity and/or polymerase chain reaction. Fifty-six (18.4%) of these patients underwent retransplantation. The 36 patients retransplanted for primary non-function were excluded from further analysis. The other indications for regrafting (>30 days following primary transplant) included hepatic artery thrombosis (5), chronic rejection (4), severe HCV recurrence (5), and other etiologies (6). The cumulative survival rates for the 248 patients who received 1 OLT (group 1) were 84% after one year and 75% after three years. The corresponding rates for the 20 non-PNF patients who were retransplanted (group 2) were 60% and 43%, respectively (P<.0001). Moreover, logistic regression analysis confirmed that patients in group 2 were more than 4 times likely to die than patients in group 1 (P<.0034; risk ratio, 4.2; 95% confidence interval 1.61 to 11.37). Patients undergoing retransplantation had a high incidence of serious infectious complications leading to mortality. Two additional patients with severe recurrent HCV died awaiting liver retransplantation. Eight of the 304 total patients (2.6%) transplanted for chronic HCV developed graft failure secondary to HCV recurrence and 6 of the 8 were retransplanted; 3 of the 6 patients retransplanted are alive without evidence of histologic recurrence (mean follow-up less than 1 year). In summary, despite the high frequency of recurrent histologic evidence of HCV following primary OLT (70% at 3 years), graft loss attributable solely to HCV is an infrequent finding. Retransplantation per se is a risk factor for a fatal outcome, and the indication for reOLT does not appear to impact ultimate outcome. Serious infectious complications were the leading cause of mortality in patients retransplanted. Furthermore, given the indolent natural history of HCV, longer follow-up is necessary to determine the ultimate rate of graft loss due to HCV recurrence.
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