Tacrolimus is beneficial in liver transplantation for reversing steroid- resistant acute rejection, and for controlling the process of chronic rejection in allograft recipients receiving Cyclosporine- (CyA) based regimens. Very little is known about the long-term efficacy of tacrolimus in pediatric transplantation after conversion from CyA. Our study examines the long-term outcome after conversion to tacrolimus for acute or chronic rejection in pediatric liver transplant (LTx) recipients. Method. Seventy- three children (age < 18 years) receiving their primary LTx under CyA between August 1989 and April 1996 were converted to tacrolimus for ongoing acute rejection (n=22, group I) or chronic rejection (n=51, group II). Mean age at the time of conversion was 10.2±5.5 years with a mean interval from LTx to conversion of 3.5±2.9 (range 0.5-10.1 years). There were 33 boys and 40 girls. All patients were followed until June 1999. Mean follow-up was 97.3±17.4 months (range 62.4-118.9 months). Results. Overall 5-year actual patient survival was 78.1% and 8-year actuarial survival was 74.6%. Patients converted to tacrolimus therapy to resolve acute rejection (group I) experience significantly better patient and graft survival at 5 and 8 years than those converted to resolve chronic rejection (group II). Eight-year patient survival and graft survival was 95.5 and 90.9% for group I compared to 74.6 and 53.5% for group II, respectively (long rank P=0.035 and 0.01, respectively). Nearly 75% of children were weaned off steroids after conversion. There was a marked improvement in hypertension, gum hyperplasia, hirsutism, and cushingoid appearance. One child in group I (4.5%) and four children in group II (7.8%) developed posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder after conversion. There was an improvement in growth in children who were less than the age of 12 years at the time of conversion and who were weaned off steroids; more significantly girls responded more favorably than boys. Conclusion. The benefit of transplantation is maintained long-term after conversion to tacrolimus for acute or chronic rejection. The response rate was significantly better in group I as compared with group II. Marked improvement in growth, hypertension, and reversal of the brutalizing effects of CyA was noted after conversion to tacrolimus. The results suggest that early conversion of pediatric liver transplant patients is warranted for the treatment of acute and chronic rejection, and for improvements in quality of life.
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