Background. Corticosteroids have long been a cornerstone of orthotopic liver transplant (OLTx) immunosuppression. Newer, more potent, agents have successfully allowed for more rapid tapering and discontinuation of corticosteroids in OLTx recipients. We hypothesize that corticosteroids can be safely avoided after the first postoperative day (POD) using these newer agents. Methods. Thirty adult OLTx recipients were prospectively enrolled in a randomized open-label, institutional review board-approved protocol. Fifteen patients (group A) received our standard regimen of tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, and corticosteroids, and 15 patients (group B) received daclizumab, 2 mg/kg on POD 0 and 14, with tacrolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, and corticosteroids on POD 0 and 1 and then discontinuation. In both groups, mycophenolate mofetil was tapered off between 3 and 4 months after OLTx. Bone mineral densitometry was performed at 1, 3, and 6 months after OLTx. Quantitative hepatitis C virus (HCV) polymerase chain reaction was obtained at days 0, 7, 14, 21, and 28. Retransplant recipients, patients with autoimmune hepatitis, or status 1 or 2A patients were excluded. Results. Patient and graft survival rates were 93% (group A) and 100% (group B) with mean follow-up of 18 months. Patients in group B had more rejection diagnosed (25%) compared with group A (6.7%). Yet, the incidence of biopsy-proven acute rejection requiring steroid therapy was 6.7% in both groups. Hispanic race was common in groups A and B (87% and 74%). A total of six biopsies were performed in group B, with three patients having mild rejection responding to an increase in tacrolimus without the need for corticosteroids. One patient in group B was switched to cyclosporine for severe neurotoxicity and remains on monotherapy with normal graft function. No patient in either group developed a requirement for additional antihypertensive medication. Likewise, there were no patients with new-onset diabetes. The bone mineral densitometry was higher in group B at every time point but did not reach statistical significance. Serum cholesterol level was significantly (P=0.03) lower in group B at 6 months after OLTx. Serum triglycerides were also lower, but the difference was not significant. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction for HCV-positive patients (group A, n=7; group B, n=8) frequently increased after OLTx. There was no correlative decrease associated with daclizumab. At present, two patients in group A have documented HCV recurrence. Conclusion. Corticosteroids can be safely avoided after POD 1 with the current regimen. With early follow-up, there is no difference in hypertension or diabetes or bone density. Lipid panels tended to be lower in patients who were not on corticosteroids. Longer term follow-up will be needed to demonstrate the potential advantage of corticosteroid avoidance in regard to hypertension, diabetes, and possibly HCV recurrence.
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