Published online Dec 28, 2018. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v24.i48.5525
Peer-review started: November 12, 2018
First decision: December 7, 2018
Revised: December 8, 2018
Accepted: December 13, 2018
Article in press: December 13, 2018
Published online: December 28, 2018
Given the shortage of suitable liver grafts for liver transplantation, proper use of hepatitis B core antibody-positive livers might be a possible way to enlarge the donor pool and to save patients with end-stage liver diseases. However, the safety of hepatitis B virus core antibody positive (HBcAb+) donors has been controversial. Initial studies were mainly conducted overseas with relatively small numbers of HBcAb+ liver recipients, and there are few relevant reports in the population of mainland China. We hypothesized that the safety of HBcAb+ liver grafts is not suboptimal.
To evaluate the safety of using hepatitis B virus (HBV) core antibody-positive donors for liver transplantation in Chinese patients.
We conducted a retrospective study enrolling 1071 patients who underwent liver transplantation consecutively from 2005 to 2016 at West China Hospital Liver Transplantation Center. Given the imbalance in several baseline variables, propensity score matching was used, and the outcomes of all recipients were reviewed in this study.
In the whole population, 230 patients received HBcAb+ and 841 patients received HBcAb negative (HBcAb-) liver grafts. The 1-, 3- and 5-year survival rates in patients and grafts between the two groups were similar (patient survival: 85.8% vs 87.2%, 77.4% vs 81.1%, 72.4% vs 76.7%, log-rank test, P = 0.16; graft survival: 83.2% vs 83.6%, 73.8% vs 75.9%, 70.8% vs 74.4%, log-rank test, P = 0.19). After propensity score matching, 210 pairs of patients were generated. The corresponding 1-, 3- and 5-year patient and graft survival rates showed no significant differences. Further studies illustrated that the post-transplant major complication rates and liver function recovery after surgery were also similar. In addition, multivariate regression analysis in the original cohort and propensity score-matched Cox analysis demonstrated that receiving HBcAb+ liver grafts was not a significant risk factor for long-term survival. These findings were consistent in both HBV surface antigen-positive (HBsAg+) and HBsAg negative (HBsAg-) patients.
Newly diagnosed HBV infection had a relatively higher incidence in HBsAg- patients with HBcAb+ liver grafts (13.23%), in which HBV naive recipients suffered most (31.82%), although this difference did not affect patient and graft survival (P = 0.50 and P = 0.49, respectively). Recipients with a high HBV surface antibody (anti-HBs) titer (more than 100 IU/L) before transplantation and antiviral prophylaxis with nucleos(t)ide antiviral agents post-operation, such as nucleos(t)ide antiviral agents, had lower de novo HBV infection risks.
HBcAb+ liver grafts do not affect the long-term outcome of the recipients. Combined with proper postoperative antiviral prophylaxis, utilization of HBcAb+ grafts is rational and feasible.
Core tip: Considering the shortage of suitable liver grafts for liver transplantation, using hepatitis B virus core antibody positive (HBcAb+) livers might be a possible way to enlarge the donor pool. However, the safety is controversial and not widely evaluated in Chinese patients. Our retrospective study enrolling 1071 patients found that HBcAb+ grafts did not affect the long-term outcome. Although post-transplant hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection had a relatively higher incidence in HBV surface antigen-negative patients with such grafts, it did not affect patient and graft survival. We also found that sufficient anti-HBs titers in recipients might be a protective factor against de novo HBV infection. Combined with proper postoperative antiviral prophylaxis, utilization of HBcAb+ grafts is feasible.