Background. The present scarcity of organ donors requires consideration of grafts from sources not previously used. Several studies have addressed the use of grafts from donors who have antibodies to the hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc+). The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of the use of anti-HBc+ grafts in patients transplanted for hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related cirrhosis. Methods. Recipients of first hepatic transplants from donors with antibodies to HBV were identified retrospectively. All patients who had serology suggestive of active HBV and were negative for hepatitis C and D were included in the analysis. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to assess the actuarial recurrence-free survival on patients with graft survival longer than 1.5 months. The stepwise Cox regression model was used to identify independent predictors of HBV recurrence. Results. One thousand seven hundred seventeen first liver transplants were performed at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute from September 1, 1990, to December 31, 1999. HBV was the cause of cirrhosis in 112 patients (6.5%). Thirty-three patients had coexistent viral infection (23 HCV and 10 HDV). Fourteen donors (17.2%) were positive for HBV markers, with nine anti-HBc+ and with five both anti-HBc+ and anti-HB surface-positive; of these, 13 anti-HBc+ organ recipients had long-term survival. Nine (69.2%) of these cases were reinfected versus 20 (35.7%) in the group that received grafts from HBV- donors (P<0.05, Fisher's exact test). The mean time to reinfection was shorter in the anti-HBc+ group (2.9 yr vs. 6.4 yr, P<0.005). There were no statistical differences in graft or patient survival between the two groups. HBV prophylaxis with combined lamivudine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) significantly reduced the reinfection rate (P<0.03). Hepatitis Be (Hbe) antigen-positive recipients trended to faster reinfection (not significant). Cox regression analysis revealed that both anti-HBc graft donor status (RR, 2.796; P=0.020) and combination of lamivudine/HBIG (RR, 0.249; P=0.021) are independently associated with reinfection. Conclusions. The use of anti-HBc+ liver grafts does not affect graft or patient survival. However, patients who receive these organs are 2.5 times more likely to develop HBV recurrence. Lamivudine and HBIG combination decreases HBV recurrence 4-fold.
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