Treat Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Decompensated Cirrhosis – Pre- or Post-liver Transplantation?


The management of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in patients with decompensated cirrhosis has evolved dramatically over the past few years mainly due to the availability of all-oral antiviral regimens. The currently approved all-oral direct-acting antivirals (DAA) containing sofosbuvir, ledipasvir, daclatasvir and ribavirin, in various combinations, have shown to be safe and effective in patients with decompensated cirrhosis with sustained virological response (SVR) rates nearly comparable to those with well-compensated liver disease. Unique issues yet remain such as the challenges with renal insufficiency, tolerability of ribavirin and risk of further hepatic decompensation with a protease inhibitor-based regimen. While most patients who achieve SVR have demonstrated improvement in hepatic synthetic function over the short course of follow, the long-term beneficial effects are unknown. Further, the baseline predictors of improvement in hepatic function have not been well delineated and thus have left us in a quandary as to what we might expect with successful therapy and thus we are at a loss to well educate our patients. The major concern, in potential liver transplant candidates, is of unintended ‘harm’ by achieving SVR but without improvement in hepatic function to an extent where the patients might function well. As HCV therapies are as effective in liver transplant recipients, there is a growing sentiment in some of the transplant quarters that those with decompensated liver disease and awaiting liver transplant be treated for HCV after liver transplant. This strategy would thus eliminate any concern of leaving a patient in ‘no person’s’ land by treating HCV successfully pretransplant but not to the point of functional normalcy, while also would maintain the risk of HCC. Yet a contrarian view would be that not all patients have access to liver transplantation (LT), cannot bear the cost, have comorbidities or contraindications to LT. While the debate continues, it is essential that we develop robust predictors of improvement in liver function so that we can carefully select our patients for therapy in the context of liver transplantation.

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