Hepatitis C is one of the most common indications for liver transplantation in the United States, accounting for approximately 40%-45% of all liver transplants. Unfortunately, recurrent disease is universal in patients who are viremic before transplantation. This can lead to cirrhosis in at least 25% of patients 5 years after liver transplantation, and recurrent hepatitis C is now emerging as an important but occasionally contentious indication for retransplantation. Several attempts have been undertaken to identify patients at high risk for severe recurrent disease who may benefit from treatment, but unfortunately antiviral therapy frequently is ineffective and often is associated with numerous side effects. Although we have made significant strides in understanding the natural history of this disease in nontransplant patients, this does not hold true for the transplant population in which several uncertainties covering virtually the entire spectrum of liver transplantation persist. Despite these concerns, on a more practical level, it is usually only in the postoperative setting that clinicians truly can assess the impact of their interventions on the natural history of recurrent hepatitis C, for example, by adjusting immunosuppression or prescribing antiviral therapy. Preoperative and perioperative (including donor) factors often are outside the control of hepatologists and transplant surgeons. This review is not an inclusive review of the literature but summarizes what we believe are the more controversial topics of this disease.
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