Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) occurring after liver transplantation can pose a difficult diagnostic dilemma. Similar clinical and pathologic skin and gastrointestinal manifestations can result from other causes (i.e., drugs, infections). Treatment for each of these entities differs, and the high mortality associated with GVHD makes this distinction critical. GVHD has been assumed to result from the cotransplantation of donor lymphoid tissue along with the allograft. In most instances, the patient also receives blood products during the operation, and occasionally during the postoperative period, and the lymphoid cells in these products are also a potential source of concern. In this report, we describe a patient who developed GVHD after liver transplantation. Using molecular diagnostic techniques, we determined that the source for this GVHD was not the organ donor, but was most likely nonirradiated blood products received during the hospital course. Our results suggest that transplant recipients with concomitant hematopoietic dysfunction would benefit from irradiated blood products to reduce the likelihood of this complication.
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