Absence of peripheral blood chimerism in graft-vs-host disease following orthotopic liver transplantation: Case report and review of the literature

Joshua M. Schulman, Christina Yoon, Jennifer Schwarz, Parsia A. Vagefi, Thaddeus W. Mully, Kanade Shinkai

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4 Scopus citations


Background: Graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) is a rare and often fatal complication of orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). The skin is frequently involved early in disease progression, but clinical and histopathological features may be nonspecific, presenting a diagnostic challenge. While the detection of peripheral blood chimerism has been proposed as a diagnostic criterion for post-OLT GVHD, it is not known whether peripheral blood chimerism is an absolute requirement for the diagnosis. Materials and methods: We report a case of a 57-year-old man who developed post-OLT GVHD with cutaneous, enteric, and bone marrow involvement. We also review the epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical presentation, histopathology, molecular diagnostic techniques, and treatment of GVHD following liver transplantation. Results: In our patient, analysis of the peripheral blood by short-tandem repeat polymerase chain reaction did not detect circulating donor lymphocytes. Donor lymphocytes were detected in the buccal mucosa, however, confirming the diagnosis. A review of chimerism patterns in 63 previously published cases of post-OLT GVHD reveals that this is the first reported case in which chimerism was absent in the peripheral blood but present in another site. Conclusions: Peripheral blood chimerism may be absent in cases of post-OLT GVHD. A combination of clinical, histopathological, and molecular features is therefore required to make this challenging diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e492-e498
JournalInternational Journal of Dermatology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

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