Graft failure from severe recurrent primary sclerosing cholangitis following orthotopic liver transplantation

Deepak V. Gopal, Christopher L. Corless, John M. Rabkin, Ali J. Olyaei, Hugo R. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Speculation that primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) may recur in the transplanted liver is based on the relative increase in frequency of biliary abnormalities and histologic evidence of periportal fibrosis without other causes. A recent study demonstrated almost 9% of patients undergoing liver transplantation (OLT) for primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) develop recurrent sclerosing cholangitis although the patient and graft survival is not different from those in whom recurrence does not develop. Most reports of PSC recurrence post-OLT estimate rates of 1% to 14%, but to date, no center has reported rapidly progressive fibro-obliterative cholangitis leading to graft failure. Case Report: DV was a 39-year-old white man with ulcerative colitis, since age 21, who developed jaundice and pruritis in 1992. ERCP and liver biopsy were consistent with PSC, and he developed thrombocytopenia and bleeding esophageal varices. He underwent an uneventful OLT in May 1994 with an ABO-compatible organ and normal ischemic times. There was no evidence of postoperative cytomegalovirus infection, hepatic artery thrombosis, or rejection, In October 1994, mild abnormalities of liver function tests (LFTs) led to liver biopsy that revealed inflammatory infiltrate in triad with spill-over into lobules and mild periportal fibrosis. LFTs normalized without any treatment, but in February 1995 repeat liver biopsy for increased LFTs revealed moderate periportal fibrosis with inflammatory cells in triads and lobules. Viral shell and CMV titers were negative. No evidence of infectious etiology or rejection was noted. The patient was started on ursodeoxycholic acid at that time and percutaneous transhepatic cholangiogram (PTC) revealed marked narrowing of the intrahepatic ducts. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) revealed esophageal varices. Hepatic arteriogram and Doppler ultrasound were negative. He developed progressive graft failure, and died at home while awaiting re-transplant. Conclusions: Although most series report mild recurrence of PSC following OLT, this case illustrates that early, severe recurrence of PSC may occur, leading to graft failure and need for re-transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-347
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Gastroenterology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


  • Autoimmune
  • Recurrence of underlying liver disease
  • Rejection
  • Sclerosing cholangitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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