The extensive use of alternative medicine products, herbal remedies, and vitamins in large doses has reached an all time high in the general public. Some agents are reported and advertised as immune stimulants and may interfere with patients suffering from immune modification, autoimmune diseases, or transplant recipients. In this report, we will present an investigation into the use of herbal remedies and vitamins in our liver transplant population. We performed an investigation using a questionnaire to determine the use of herbal products and vitamins in our liver transplant population. Medical records were reviewed for each liver transplant recipient that admitted to consuming herbal products or vitamins. Information collected included patient demographics, transplant related information, laboratory tests, outcomes, and herbs or vitamin products used. A total of 290 patients completed and returned the questionnaire. We found 156 admitting to taking more than a standard multivitamin and/or an herbal remedy. All patients were treated with steroids for allograft rejection and experienced a recurrence of amino transaminases following the removal of steroids. Further investigation into dietary supplements using a patient questionnaire form revealed that nearly 50% of patients admitted to using vitamins following transplantation, while 19% used herbal remedies combined with vitamins, most admitting to silymarin. One recipient was ingesting colostrum and required admission for the management of allograft rejection, while 5 patients had consumed large amounts of echinacea or CoEnzyme Q-10 and experienced elevations in their transaminases that resolved with discontinuation of the herb. The review also identified 4 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis and with transaminase elevation (mean values of aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase levels of 88 and 95, respectively). All recipients were consuming vitamins, in particular high doses of vitamin E (tocopherol), more than 1 gram per day. All of the transplant recipients were instructed to discontinue all vitamin E products and the amino transaminases resolved over the following 30 to 60 days. In conclusion, this information reveals that a significant proportion of our liver transplant recipients consume herbal remedies. The results of this report suggest that transplant teams need to question each recipient about the use of herbal and vitamin remedies and educate them regarding the potential hazards.
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