Extracorporeal photopheresis: A case of graft-versus-host-disease and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis following liver transplantation

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BACKGROUND: Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) is one of the rare complications following liver transplantation. We report on the efficacy and safety of extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) in managing GVHD and hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) after liver transplantation.

CASE REPORT: The patient is a 63-year-old male with hepatitis B cirrhosis who underwent liver transplantation. Three weeks after transplant, he presented with fever, diarrhea, and poor appetite. The patient also had bilateral blanchable erythematous patches on his palms, biopsy of which was suggestive of GVHD. The patient continued to have high-grade fever with altered mental status. CBC showed pancytopenia. Liver function examination was normal. Patient was started on methylprednisolone. Additional laboratory analysis showed high ferritin (>15000 ug/L), triglycerides (280 mg/dl), and low fibrinogen (80 mg/dl). Chimerism analysis using short tandem repeat (STR) PCR confirmed the diagnosis of GVHD. Marrow biopsy showed hemophagocytosis. The patient fulfilled the HLH-2004 diagnostic criteria. He was kept on tacrolimus and steroids and was started on etanercept and ECP. After the first two cycles of ECP (one cycle defined as the weekly two procedures of ECP), the patient reported improvement of symptoms. He tolerated ECP well. His labs improved during the course of treatment, until his peripheral blood STR showed 100% recipient DNA. He was discharged after the fourth cycle of ECP to receive the remaining treatments as outpatient. At one year follow-up, the patient is asymptomatic with no evidence of GVHD or HLH.

DISCUSSION: ECP in combination with immunosuppressive therapy and etanercept was safe and efficient in managing GVHD and HLH following liver transplantation.

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ePub ahead of print