1University of Toledo College of Medicine, Toledo, OH, USA.
2Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, USA.
3Department of Transplant Surgery, University of Toledo Medical Center, Toledo, OH, USA.
Caring for liver transplant patients suffering from chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a challenging task for transplant surgeons and primary physicians alike. HCV is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the USA and comes with a myriad of complications that increase morbidity and mortality. This review focuses on patient follow-up, spanning from before the liver transplant occurs to the patient's long-term health. Pretransplant, both donor and recipient variables, must be carefully chosen to ensure optimal surgical success. Risk factors must be identified and HCV viral load must be reduced to a minimum. In addition to standard transplant complications, HCV patients suffer from additional problems, such as fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis and widespread viremia. Physicians must focus on the balance of immunosuppressive and antiviral medications, while considering possible side effects from these potent drugs. Over the years following surgery, physicians must identify any signs of failing liver health, as HCV-positive patients have an increased risk for cirrhosis and certain life-threatening malignancies.