Liver dysfunction occurs after bone marrow transplantation but the relative importance of graft versus host disease and other factors, such as infection, radiation, and drugs, has not been clearly established. We have studied liver status before and after bone marrow transplantation in 43 consecutive patients and have related this to survival and factors that are recognised to cause liver injury. Minor abnormalities of liver tests occurred in 21% of patients before grafting but this did not influence survival or the development of liver disease after transplantation. During the first 50 days after grafting, 83% of patients had abnormal liver tests which were more severe in patients who subsequently died. Alanine transaminase was significantly higher in non-survivors and appeared to predict survival early after transplantation. Only non-survivors developed clinical signs of liver disease. Severe liver disease was always associated with graft versus host disease and atypia of the small bile ducts was the most useful histological marker of hepatic involvement with this disease. Two of the patients with hepatic graft versus host disease also has hepatic veno-occlusive disease and three fatalities had opportunistic infection of the liver, although, in the latter, death was not due primarily to liver dysfunction. Previous hepatitis and androgen therapy could not be implicated as important causes of hepatic damage but chemotherapy for acute leukaemia and conditioning regimens for bone marrow transplantation appear to be the most important factors in the development of hepatic veno-occlusive disease.
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