21 October 2005
Background: In Saudi Arabia the prevalence of hepatitis C among hemodialysis patients is very high ranging from 60 to 80%. A large number of these dialysis patients go for renal transplant, resulting into a higher prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in renal transplant patients. Yet no current systematic report is available on the influence of hepatitis C status on patient and graft survival. The present study was therefore undertaken to address this objective. Methods: Retrospective analysis of data of 448 renal transplantation subjects was undertaken. The mean follow-up period was 5.85 ± 2.7 (median 5.3) years. The factors associated with renal graft survival were reviewed and these include: age, sex, and type of donor, immunosuppressive medication, episodes of infection, blood pressure, serum creatinine, and status of hepatitis. The primary end-points were renal graft function and patient survival. Logistic regression, COX regression analysis, and Kaplan-Meier survival estimates were used to evaluate the influence of hepatitis C on the above parameters. Results: Among 448 recipients of first kidney transplant patients, 286 (63.8%) were positive for HCV infection. In the HCV-positive group, 204 (71.32%) were males. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed a significantly better graft survival for HCV-negative patients than HCV-positive patients (p < 0.001; log-rank test). Logistic regression analysis and COX regression analysis have shown different grades of graft dysfunction were present in HCV-positive patients after adjustment for covariates: age, sex, blood pressure, type of donor, and immunosuppressive medication; the presence of HCV was a major predictor of bad outcome and significantly influenced graft survival (odds ratio = 4.37; 95% Cl = 1.81–4.77). Significant deterioration of liver function was noted in HCV-positive patients at the last follow-up, taking ALT as a marker (ALT level 80.6 ± 5.8 U/l at the last follow-up versus 49.5 ± 32 U/l at baseline p ≤ 0.0001). Sixteen patients had a chronic active course and 1 patient developed biopsy-proven liver cirrhosis and portal hypertension. A serious and significantly greater incidence of fatal chest infections was seen in HCV-positive patients. Although mortality was greater in HCV-positive versus HCV-negative patients (20 vs. 7), the difference did not attain statistical significance (p = 0.23) and none of the patients died as a result of hepatic failure. Conclusion: The presence of HCV infection greatly influenced graft survival in renal transplant patients and a higher proportion of infected patients had renal and hepatic dysfunction. A significant increase in fatal chest infections was noted in HCV-positive patients. Overall mortality was higher in HCV-positive patients, but it was not statistically significant. All measures should be taken to prevent HCV transmission in the dialysis population. Renal transplant recipients with HCV infection need close monitoring for both graft and liver function.