Objective: To determine the prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) among patients undergoing liver transplantation and the relation between anti-HCV and post-transplant hepatitis.
Design: Retrospective cohort.
Patients: Serum samples from 128 patients who underwent liver transplantation. Sixty-six patients who had 6 months of follow-up and for whom both pretransplant and post-transplant serum samples were available were included in a study to assess the relation between anti-HCV and post-transplant hepatitis.
Measurements: Sera were tested for anti-HCV using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and, if positive, two confirmatory tests were done. Patients had a biopsy every week until two specimens showed no abnormal findings.
Main Results: Only patients with chronic non-A non-B hepatitis (15 of 30; 50%), alcoholic cirrhosis (7 of 19; 37%), and chronic hepatitis B infection (3 of 11; 27%) were anti-HCV positive. No patient with another form of chronic liver disease or with acute liver failure due to non-A non-B hepatitis was anti-HCV positive. After transplantation, loss of anti-HCV was frequent and acquisition rare. Hepatitis developed in the graft in 17% of patients, but the incidence was similar among anti-HCV negative and anti-HCV-positive patients.
Conclusions: Hepatitis C virus is a common cause of chronic liver disease in patients requiring liver transplantation, but anti-HCV is rarely found in patients with acute liver failure. Previous HCV infection, based on detection of anti-HCV, is not an independent risk factor for post-transplant hepatitis.