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Posttransplant Lymphoproliferative Disease Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Phillip M Garfin, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Ron Shapiro, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 09, 2015


Whether posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) presents as localized or disseminated disease, the tumors are often aggressive, rapidly progressive, and potentially life threatening. Clinical presentation is variable and includes fever (57%), lymphadenopathy (38%), gastrointestinal symptoms (including obstruction [27%], infectious mononucleosis–like syndrome that can be fulminant (19%), pulmonary symptoms (15%), CNS symptoms (13%), and weight loss (9%).

Involvement of the allografted tissue can cause declining organ function. This organ failure may be the presenting symptom. Having a high index of suspicion and clinical vigilance is critical, because patients may present with nonspecific symptoms or systemic signs such as fever, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, lymphadenopathy, or hepatosplenomegaly that may otherwise not initially suggest a diagnosis of PTLD. A rising blood level of EBV viral load by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) measurement in this clinical setting should raise concern for PTLD.[35, 4, 1, 36, 37]

The most common sites of involvement are lymph nodes, liver, lung, kidney, bone marrow, small intestine, spleen, CNS, large bowel, tonsils, and salivary glands.[38, 32] Less common sites of involvement include the oral cavity and skin or subcutaneous lesions. T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders not associated with EBV infection tend to occur at extranodal sites.



See History discussion.



See Pathophysiology discussion and History discussion.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Phillip M Garfin, MD, PhD California Institute of Regenerative Medicine MD Training Scholar, Clinical Instructor, Section of Hematology, Oncology, Stem Cell Transplantation, and Cancer Biology, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine

Phillip M Garfin, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Clare J Twist, MD Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Medical Center Line, Stanford University School of Medicine; Medical Staff, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford University Medical Center

Clare J Twist, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Hematology, American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children's Oncology Group, American Society of Clinical Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Marcel E Conrad, MD Distinguished Professor of Medicine (Retired), University of South Alabama College of Medicine

Marcel E Conrad, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Blood Banks, American Chemical Society, American College of Physicians, American Physiological Society, American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Society of Hematology, Association of American Physicians, Association of Military Surgeons of the US, International Society of Hematology, Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, SWOG

Disclosure: Partner received none from No financial interests for none.

Chief Editor

Ron Shapiro, MD Professor of Surgery, Robert J Corry Chair in Transplantation Surgery, Associate Clinical Director, Thomas E Starzl Transplantation Institute, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Ron Shapiro, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Transplantation, American Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons, Transplantation Society, International Pediatric Transplant Association, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, Association for Academic Surgery, Central Surgical Association, Society of University Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Sandeep Mukherjee, MB, BCh, MPH, FRCPC Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Consulting Staff, Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Veteran Affairs Medical Center

Disclosure: Merck Honoraria Speaking and teaching; Ikaria Pharmaceuticals Honoraria Board membership

Mary Prendergast, MD Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Mary Prendergast, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Royal College of Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Vinay Ranga, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Hartford Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Biopsy of gingival tissue (400 X) with hematoxylin and eosin stain demonstrates polymorphous infiltrate of atypical lymphoid cells, which is consistent with posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD).
Biopsy of gingival tissue (400 X). Epstein-Barr virus encoded RNA (EBER) study shows numerous positive cells, which is consistent with posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD).
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