Factors associated with recurrence of primary biliary cholangitis after liver transplantation and effects on graft and patient survival

Global PBC Study Group

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31 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) frequently recurs after liver transplantation. We evaluated risk factors associated with recurrence of PBC and its effects on patient and graft survival in a multicenter, international cohort (the Global PBC Study Group).

METHODS: We collected demographic and clinical data from 785 patients (89% female) with PBC who underwent liver transplantation (mean age, 54 ± 9 years) from February 1983 through June 2016, among 13 centers in North America and Europe. Results from biochemical tests performed within 12 months of liver transplantation were analyzed to determine whether markers of cholestasis could identify patients with recurrence of PBC (based on histologic analysis). Patients were followed for a median 6.9 years (interquartile range, 6.1-7.9 years).

RESULTS: PBC recurred in 22% of patients after 5 years and 36% after 10 years. Age at diagnosis <50 years (hazard ratio [HR], 1.79; 95% CI, 1.36-2.36; P < .001), age at liver transplantation <60 years (HR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.02-1.90; P = .04), use of tacrolimus (HR, 2.31; 95% CI, 1.72-3.10; P < .001), and biochemical markers of severe cholestasis (bilirubin ≥100 μmol or alkaline phosphatase >3-fold the upper limit of normal) at 6 months after liver transplantation (HR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.16-2.76; P = .008) were associated with higher risk of PBC recurrence, whereas use of cyclosporine reduced risk of PBC recurrence (HR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.82; P = .001). In multivariable Cox regression with time-dependent covariate, recurrence of PBC significantly associated with graft loss (HR, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.16-3.51; P = .01) and death (HR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.11-2.65; P = .02).

CONCLUSIONS: Younger age at the time of diagnosis with PBC or at liver transplantation, tacrolimus use, and biochemical markers of cholestasis after liver transplantation are associated with PBC recurrence. PBC recurrence reduces odds of graft and patient survival. Strategies are needed to prevent PBC recurrence or reduce its negative effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-107.e1
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Age of Onset
  • Biomarkers/blood
  • Biopsy
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents/adverse effects
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary/blood
  • Liver Transplantation/adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North America
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Tacrolimus/adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


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