Division of Nephrology, Maggiore Hospital and IRCCS Foundation, Milano, Italy.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains the most common cause of liver damage in patients with kidney disease, including those on long-term dialysis. The natural history of HCV in patients on regular dialysis is not fully elucidated, but an adverse effect of HCV on survival has been noted; a novel meta-analysis of observational studies (14 studies including 145,608 unique patients) showed that the summary estimate for adjusted relative risk (all-cause mortality) was 1.35 with a 95% confidence interval of 1.25-1.47. The adjusted RR for liver disease-related death and cardiovascular mortality among maintenance dialysis patients was 3.82 (95% CI, 1.92-7.61) and 1.26 (95% CI, 1.10-1.45), respectively. It has been recommended that the decision to treat HCV in patients with chronic kidney disease be based on the potential benefits and risks of therapy, including life expectancy, candidacy for kidney transplant, and comorbidities. A pooled analysis including 494 dialysis patients on monotherapy with conventional interferon reported a summary estimate for sustained viral response and dropout rate of 39% (95% CI, 32-46) and 19% (95% CI, 13-26), respectively. All renal transplant candidates (dialysis dependent or not) with HCV should be assessed for antiviral treatment given the increased risk of progressive liver disease with immunosuppressive therapy, the increased life expectancy compared to other HCV-positive patients on dialysis, and the inability to receive interferon after transplant. Current guidelines support monotherapy with standard interferon in these patients, but modern antiviral approaches (that is, dual therapy with peg-IFN plus ribavirin) in a well-controlled setting may be an appropriate alternative.