Hepatic granulomas following liver transplantation: A retrospective survey, and analysis of possible microbiological etiology


BACKGROUND: Liver granulomas have always been a diagnostic challenge for pathologists. They have been described in up to 15% of liver biopsies and can also be seen in liver allograft biopsy specimens, but there is a paucity of information regarding the prevalence and associated etiologic factors of granulomas in liver transplanted patients. The aim of this study is to shed light on the etiology of liver granulomas.

METHODS: Liver biopsies from liver transplanted patients, in the period from 01.01.2011 - 01.05.2017, were examined. We registered the histo-morphological characteristics and clinicopathological data of all biopsies and performed next-generation sequencing (NGS) to detect possible pathogens (bacteria, fungi, and parasites) in the biopsies containing granulomas.

RESULTS: We reviewed a total of 400 liver biopsies from 217 liver transplant patients. Of these, 131 liver biopsies (32.8%) from 98 patients (45.2%) revealed granulomas. Most were epithelioid granulomas located parenchymal and were detected in 115 (87.7%) biopsies. We also identified 10 cases (7.6%) with both lobular and portal granulomas and six biopsies (4.5%) with portal granulomas alone. In 54 biopsies (41.2%), granulomas were found in biopsies with acute cellular rejection (ACR). Fifty (51%) patients with granulomas underwent liver transplantation for autoimmune-related end-stage liver disease (AILD). The granulomas were found most frequently in the first six months after transplantation, where patients also more often were biopsied. NGS analysis did not reveal any potential infectious agent, and no significant differences were observed in the microbiological diversity (microbiome) between clinical- and granuloma characteristics concerning bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

CONCLUSION: Our study confirmed that granulomas are frequently seen in liver allograft biopsy specimens, and most often localized in the parenchyma, occurring in the first post-transplant period in patients with AILD, and often seen simultaneously with episodes of ACR. Neither a specific microbiological etiological agent nor a consistent microbiome was detected in any case.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155201
JournalPathology, research and practice
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Biopsy/adverse effects
  • Graft Rejection/pathology
  • Granuloma/pathology
  • Hepatitis
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation/adverse effects
  • Liver/pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Granuloma
  • Liver
  • Transplantation
  • Microbiome


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