Background. The long-term complications of immunosuppressive therapy such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension are a major source of morbidity in liver transplant recipients. In this prospective, randomized, open-label study we completely withdrew prednisone (PRED) 14 days after liver transplantation in an effort to decrease these metabolic complications. Patients were maintained on mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) in combination with either cyclosporine (CsA; Neoral formulation) or tacrolimus (TAC). Thus, we also were able to compare CsA to TAC in patients not receiving PRED with respect to efficacy, toxicity, and effect on posttransplant metabolic complications. Methods. A total of 71 patients were randomized to receive either TAC-MMF (n=35) or CsA-MMF (n=36) after liver transplantation and were analyzed for patient and graft survival. Fifty-eight patients continued the immunosuppressive protocol for at least 6 months after transplantation and were analyzed for the incidence of acute rejection and the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. Results. The 6-month patient survival rates were 94.4% for CsA-MMF and 88.6% for TAC-MMF. Corresponding 6-month graft survival rates were 88.7% and 85.7% with no immunologic graft losses in either group. The incidence of biopsy-proven acute rejection was 46% for CsA-MMF and 42.3% for TAC-MMF. Six patients were converted from CsA to TAC (four for recurrent rejection) and seven patients were converted from TAC to CsA (four for neurotoxicity). Only one patient (in the TAC-MMF group) developed new-onset posttransplant diabetes. In contrast, four of eight patients in the CsA-MMF group who were diabetic before transplant became nondiabetic in the first 3 months after transplant. The mean serum cholesterol level was significantly lower in the TAC-MMF group than in the CsA-MMF group (145.2 ± 41.8 mg/dl and 190.3 ± 62.2, respectively; P<0.001) and the incidence of hypertension was lower in the TAC-MMF group (12% vs. 30.3% in the CsA-MMF group, P<0.01). Both groups had a lower incidence of metabolic complications compared with a historical group (n=100) maintained on CsA and PRED (10 mg/day at 6 months). Conclusions. MMF in combination with either TAC or CsA allows withdrawal of PRED 14 days after liver transplantation with a moderate rejection rate and no immunologic graft losses. Early PRED withdrawal decreases posttransplant diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension, but patients maintained on TAC have lower serum cholesterol levels and a lower incidence of hypertension than CsA-treated patients.
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