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Clinical Impact of Liver Biopsies in Liver Transplant Recipients

Torsten Voigtländer, Tim A. Alten, Martha M. Kirstein, Frank Lehner, Michael P. Manns, Jerome Schlué, Heiner Wedemeyer, Tim O Lankisch

(Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany)

Ann Transplant 2017; 22:108-114

DOI: 10.12659/AOT.901487


BACKGROUND: Percutaneous liver biopsy is an established diagnostic procedure for the assessment of liver pathologies. Limited data are available on the clinical impact of liver biopsies in liver transplant recipients.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Liver transplant recipients undergoing liver biopsy between 2000 and 2013 were analyzed. Demographic characteristics and transplantation data were extracted from the transplantation database.
RESULTS: A total of 496 liver biopsies were performed in 312 patients. The main biopsy indications were suspected rejection (66%, 327/496), protocol biopsy (22%, 108/496), and suspected recurrence of the primary disease (7%, 34/496). Histological findings showed acute cellular rejection in 36% (179/496), idiopathic chronic hepatitis in 28% (141/496), and normal histology in 11% (54/496). Liver biopsies in patients with clinically suspected rejection showed histological findings compatible with acute or chronic rejection in 46% (151/327). In 41% (205/496) of the patients, the immunosuppressive therapy was adjusted due to the biopsy result. For alanine-aminotransferase and bilirubin, significant differences were detected between baseline and week 4 and 12 after treatment modification (p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Liver biopsies in liver transplant recipients have potential impact on the modification of the immunosuppressive therapy. The correlation between suspected rejection and histological findings is limited; therefore, a liver biopsy is indicated in unclear cases.

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