Previous studies have suggested an increased risk of Epstein-Barr virus-associated posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (EBV-PTLD) in patients receiving tacrolimus for immunosuppression. We hypothesized that after correction for confounding variables, immunosuppression with tacrolimus is not associated with an increased risk of EBV-PTLD.
Potential cases of EBV-PTLD, identified by chart review, were independently ascertained by three clinicians and defined using published criteria. Agreement in diagnosing EBV-PTLD was measured using Kappa coefficients. Unadjusted and adjusted relative risk estimates were determined using proportional hazards regression.
Twenty-three cases of EBV-PTLD were identified in 221 patients, a proportion of 10.4% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.4%-14.4%). Multivariable analysis revealed that immunosuppression with tacrolimus was associated with an increased risk of EBV-PTLD (relative risk 3.10: 95% CI: 1.21-7.92), as was age at transplantation as a continuous variable (parameter estimate -0.15, P=0.03). Kappa coefficients in diagnosing EBV-PTLD and subclassifying as neoplastic and non-neoplastic EBV-PTLD were 0.73 (95% CI: 0.54-0.93) and 0.54 (95% CI: 0.40-0.68), respectively. Patients with neoplastic PTLD demonstrated a lower probability of survival than patients with non-neoplastic PTLD and non-cases.
Immunosuppression with tacrolimus and young age at transplantation are associated with an increased risk of EBV-PTLD in children undergoing liver transplantation, although we cannot exclude detection bias as an explanation for this observed increase. Good agreement between observers can be achieved using previously published criteria for defining EBV-PTLD. Patients with neoplastic EBV-PTLD may have a worse prognosis, and thus identification of risk factors for the development of this subtype of the disorder may be more important.
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